Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a lung infection that affects people of all ages. While it is most common in adults, infants are in more danger if they contract it. It is highly contagious through mucus from sneezing and coughing. However, it can still spread without a present cough.

Adults with whooping cough usually do not know they have it, as symptoms are similar to the common cold. Symptoms include sinus congestion, watery eyes, runny nose, cough and fever, and can take a week to ten days to appear. When the cough continues, it can leave you with a “whooping” sound while trying to breathe. Many times there is no whoop, but a bursty, wet cough that will not go away.

When mucus builds up in the airways, the cough becomes persistent and intense. Sometimes this can lead to vomiting and fatigue. With infants, they do not always have a cough. However, they can have loss of appetite, shortness of breath or stop breathing at times.

Complications from whooping cough in adults includes cracked ribs, broken blood vessels in the eyes and abdominal hernias. With infants, complications can be more serious, including pneumonia, difficulty breathing, dehydration, seizures and possible brain damage. Infants sometimes need hospital treatment due to complications.

Infants from the age of two months to four to six years will get five doses of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). Getting all doses on time will keep them about 90% protected for at least a year. The vaccinations children get wear off around age 11, so all adults should get a one-time pertussis booster. If you are pregnant or become pregnant, the Tdap shot is recommended during the third trimester of each pregnancy. It is also recommended for those who will come in contact with infants under the age of one.

There will always be whooping cough outbreaks. Although there are no medications to cure the cough itself, antibiotics can be given to treat the infection. Stay healthy by sleeping, drinking lots of fluids, continuing daily nasal rinses and keeping the air in your home clean with an air purifier. If you feel you or a family member may have whooping cough, contact your physician.