30th April 2012

Ask Keir: Whooping cough

This week Keir addresses your queries about the rising issue of whooping cough

Ask Keir is a column aiming to answer all your health questions. If you want to know about that funny looking lump that won’t go away, why that student doctor keeps poking you or anything at all to do with health get in touch at: [email protected]

All questions will of course be kept confidential and anonymous.

Question of the Week

Hi, I’ve been hearing on the news about a disease going round called whooping cough and at the moment I’ve got a hacking cough. I’m concerend I have it what should I do?

Whooping cough has been in the news recently because there has been an upsurge in the number of cases being seen by doctors. Its caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis and classically affects babies and children but can also infect adults although less commonly. The news has centered on the rising number of adults in the last year developing the disease. In the young it can be serious however in adults it is generally less so.

The ‘whooping’ part of whooping cough comes from the noise made by sufferers. When having a coughing fit they struggle to breathe and on taking a breath in make a characteristic sound similar to that if you held your breath under water and came up gasping for air. Slightly strangely not everyone with the whooping cough necessarily whoops especially young children who can end up not breathing which is obviously very serious and needs immediate medical attention.

The symptoms start out very similar to the common cold (runny nose, sore throat, watery eyes etc.) and then progress to more serious symptoms including coughing fits which can last as long as three minutes bringing up thick phlegm and can cause vomiting.

Most people are vaccinated as a child against the whooping cough but there are several boosters required to give complete immunity and children can end up missing them leaving them open to the infection. As for the treatment if its in the early stages your doctor will most likely give you antibiotics however if its in the later stages he/she will probably not give you anything as the body’s own defence systems will have almost fought off the infection.

Otherwise they’ll advise you just to have bed rest, drink plenty of fluids and stay away for others until it’s passed.  Remember if you are worried or want to know anything more seek advice from your GP.


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