Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What is Whooping Cough?

The whooping cough could last for 10 weeks The whooping cough could last for 10 weeks

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that can strike people at any age. It starts out like a normal cold, but is followed by up to 10 weeks of long bouts of coughing and “whooping."

“Like a lot of diseases, it's worst in the youngest patients, less than six months,” noted Dr. Alaina Brown, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville. “But also older people as well, you can have a more severe disease."

Dr. Brown says getting vaccinated against the disease certainly helps.

“The initial series starts at 2 months, and should be given at 2, 4 and 6 months with a booster dose at 15 to 18 months, another booster at 4 years or 5 years and then we're now doing a booster dose at 11 years old as well.”

Pregnant women also receive the vaccine in their third trimester to help protect their baby until it can be vaccinated. And, anyone who will be around young children should also make sure to get vaccinated.

“Whooping cough is pretty contagious when you are in close contact from aerosolized drops, so the kind of drops that are when you're coughing which you are doing a lot of when you have pertussis, and it’s most contagious during the initial phase when you don’t necessarily know you have pertussis,” said Dr. Brown.

The disease is the most dangerous for premature infants and infants less than two months of age, so parents with children in those populations are urged to be extra vigilant.

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer email healthquestions@nbc29.com.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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