Whooping cough: Signs of an illness that takes your breath away!

A drippy nose, watery eyes and dry cough may be the annoying side effects of a cold. But...

A drippy nose, watery eyes and dry cough may be the annoying side effects of a cold. But did you know they can also lay the groundwork for an even more persistent ailment? Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, could be the underlying culprit. This illness plagues everyone from infants to the elderly. Know how to spot the symptoms and get comfortable until you can see a doctor.

So, what is it?

Before outlining what to watch for, know what pertussis is and isn't. Whooping cough is a contagious bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing fits, according to the New York State Department of Health. Bacteria live in the mouth, nose and throat, so don't think about sharing your drink or a kissing loved ones when ill. Pertussis isn't simply a severe cold or one-time coughing episode.

OK, how do I spot it?

Whooping cough starts out with cold-like symptoms including sneezing, a low-grade fever and a mild cough. Instead of getting increasingly better, the cough gets worse. Within two weeks you'll notice dry, unproductive coughing in a rapid series followed by gasping for air or a whooping sound. You may have whooping cough if you notice these symptoms:

  • Coughing occurs over the span of one to two months
  • Coughing happens more often at night or while laying down
  • You have trouble breathing even when not coughing
  • You are also battling pneumonia or a middle-ear infection
  • You vomit or turn blue after the coughing fits

Feeling better soon!

If you can't get to the doctor until tomorrow, rely on home remedies to soothe your irritated throat and sore body now. Try swallowing a spoonful of honey mixed with cinnamon. The honey coats your throat to relieve dryness, and both ingredients are natural antibacterials to speed up the healing process.

Then soak in a warm bath sprinkled with fresh mint leaves. A minty aroma helps clear congestion to make breathing easier. Finally, finish the day by placing a heat pad under your lower back to loosen tight muscles from coughing. When it's time for bed, turn the heat pad off.

What now?

Pertussis can be treated with prescription antibiotics. Visit a physician in Atlanta for a full evaluation and diagnosis. With an antibiotic treatment, the risk of spreading the disease is reduced to five days after the start of the medication. The medication will kill the bacteria causing the cough but not alleviate the cough itself. Use a moist-air humidifer, herbal throat lozenges and warm drinks, such as black tea, to soothe your sore throat from coughing.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta recommends pertussis vaccines for pregnant women, children, teens and adults. This illness can be life-threatening for infants and requires an immediate trip to the emergency room of the nearest hospital when suspected in children that cannot speak.

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