What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that causes severe bouts of coughing, which can last for several weeks or months. It gets its name from the fact that some children make a ‘whoop’ sound as they draw in breath between coughing.
What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
The first symptoms are similar to a common cold. Your child may feel generally unwell with a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, a slight fever and, a few days later, a dry cough. These symptoms usually last for about a week or two. After about a week, their cough will get worse, and they’ll probably have regular bouts of severe coughing. In between the coughing fits, they might feel quite well. They may have some of the following symptoms:
- At the end of a bout of coughing, your child may make a ‘whoop’ sound as they draw in breath.
- The coughing may be worse at night, or there might be particular things that set if off – like cold temperatures or a sudden noise.
- Your child might cough up thick mucus.
- Your child’s face may be flushed and they might suddenly start sweating.
- Your child might have a bluish-purplish tinge to their lips and skin, caused by lack of oxygen after a coughing fit.
If you or your child has symptoms of whooping cough, you should see your GP.
Treatment of whooping cough
If your child has had a cough for less than three weeks, your GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics won’t usually help with your symptoms – they’ll still likely to have a cough for several weeks. But they may help to prevent the infection spreading to other people. You’ll need to keep your children off school or nursery until they’ve completed at least 48 hours of treatment with antibiotics.
Treating the symptoms
There isn’t any treatment you can take that can stop your child’s cough. This will gradually get better on its own with time. While they’re feeling unwell, the best thing you can do is to make sure your child gets lots of rest and drinks plenty of water to keep hydrated.
You’ll find more about whooping cough in our health information. Read more >