Whooping Cough Prevention - A Family Affair
January 29, 2016
HURON, S.D. – With pertussis, or whooping cough, cases in South Dakota up from 67 in 2013 to 110 in 2014, vaccinations are more important than ever, according to Erica Gillette, MD, a family medicine physician at Huron Clinic.
“It’s a classic case in which an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” says Dr. Gillette. “Because whooping cough can be life-threatening for infants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children and adults who come into contact with kids stay up-to-date on pertussis vaccines. I also recommend that everyone who will care for a newborn – such as dad, grandparents, etc. – check their vaccination status and update it before delivery.”
In recent years, approximately 9 of every 100,000 Americans suffered from pertussis (whooping cough) annually, but in some states, including South Dakota that number has increased dramatically. The reason for the uptick may due to a vaccine change that took place 15 years ago, according the National Institutes of Health.
Infants, who don’t begin to receive pertussis vaccines until they’re two months old, are more vulnerable to whooping cough than any other group, and many parents who hear that painful cough want nothing more than to offer immediate relief. Unfortunately, the strength and types of medications effective against the cough are too potent for infants and aren’t recommended.
“Once I confirm a case of whooping cough, typical treatment takes the form of antibiotics,” said Dr. Gillette. “Parents must be careful to follow physician directions as the highly contagious pertussis bacteria are easily spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
Dr. Gillette recommends those caring for patients with pertussis, adhere to antibiotic treatments and keep the following complementary therapies in mind:
- Rest. Treatment for pertussis should be accompanied by constant rest in an irritant-free environment.
- Nourishment and hydration. People with pertussis need nourishment, but they may have trouble eating or drinking because of the cough. Smaller, frequent meals can help, and when it comes to infants, foster hydration by frequently offering a water bottle and keeping one by the bedside for convenience.
- Cough relief. One suggestion to temporarily soothe the savage cough of a pertussis infection is to use a thyme infusion in your humidifier. Infants can breathe in the steam from the humidifier to help calm a sore throat. Consisting of thyme, licorice, and honey, this type of infusion can also be added to a bath.
- Relaxation. A post-bath massage can help infants let go of muscle tension and provide relief from a prolonged racking cough.
The single most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community. The pertussis vaccine is usually given in combination with diphtheria and tetanus. There are two types of pertussis vaccine: DTaP and Tdap. Parents, grandparents and caregivers should check with their healthcare provider to ensure the following guidelines are met:
- DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) vaccine be given at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age and between 4 and 6 years of age and adolescents 11 - 12 years of age should receive a single dose of Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis vaccine) instead of Td (Tetanus, Diphtheria) vaccine.
- Adults who have not received Tdap vaccine or for whom vaccine status is unknown should receive a dose of Tdap followed by Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster doses every 10 years thereafter.
- Women should receive a dose of Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy (preferred during 27 to 36 weeks’ gestation) regardless of interval since prior Td or Tdap vaccination. Being up-to-date with one dose of Tdap is especially important for adults who are around babies.
Pertussis may look the common cold at first, but after a couple weeks, the irritating cough that earned the infection its common name (whooping cough) begins. Other symptoms of whooping cough include:
- Low-grade fever less than 102 degrees
- Runny nose
- Coughing, sneezing and severe coughing
- Children with whooping cough typically suffer more during the night than the day.
“Up to 80 percent of non-immunized family members in the house with a child that has pertussis will develop the infection,” said Dr. Gillette. “That’s why proper immunization and care during the illness are so important.”
Dr. Gillette encourages community members to check with their healthcare provider and get vaccinated sooner rather than later. For more information on contacting Dr. Gillette or other healthcare providers on staff at Huron Regional Medical Center, visit www.huronregional.org/find-a-doc.
For more information on preventing the spread of pertussis, visit www.cdc.gov/pertussis.
Sources: cdc.gov, doh.sd.gov, health.usnews.com, vran.org, kidshealth.org
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