WHOOPING COUGH (PERTUSSIS)
This is the most serious of the common childhood infections and can have serious consequences especially in young babies. The incubation period is from seven to ten days, and the child is infectious for 28 days after the onset of symptoms.
The disease starts with a normal cough, often associated with a rather watery nasal discharge. After a few days, the child will cough several times in one breath, and coughing will start quite spontaneously or may be precipitated just by lifting the child. IT will then be continuous with the child having little possibility of getting his breath. The characteristic ‘whoop’ is not found in this age. Vomiting will usually occur with the coughing. In spite of treatment, the cough frequently persists for many weeks or months. The principal complications of the disease are pneumonia and ear infections.
A specific antibiotic treatment is available and this should be instituted without delay. However, the cough frequently persists and is not much relieved by the normal cough mixtures. A mild sedative is frequently helpful. Persistent vomiting may make feeding difficult, and in such cases small frequent meals should be given.
A vaccine is now available and, as no immunity is passed from the mother, immunization should be undertaken as early as possible.