The Big Bad Whoop
Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 10:44AM
Sunny Peds Admin

As Featured in the Madison Press February 6, 2010 Issue

Winter is here and so is cough, cold, and flu season. It is not uncommon that a child fights seven to 10 colds in a year, mostly between October and March. So what does that mean for you and your family?
Seeing your friendly neighborhood physician many times between October and March.

In addition to the normal viruses running amuck, there is another sinister character that has been running rampant in the Madison County area with seven diagnosed cases in December and January alone. These little bacteria sneak in with a small runny nose, maybe a fever for a week. Next thing you
know, your little one is coughing and coughing and coughing and coughing and… get the picture? This
is a cough that lasts longer than a few days or even longer than a week. This cough can last six to 10

Commonly known as “whooping cough” because of the characteristic noise a patient makes after a
long coughing fit, this illness is known in the medical community as pertussis. A child is vaccinated
for this bacteria for the first time at 2 months of age and then again at 4 months, 6 months, after one year of age, and after four years of age. So how are these kiddos getting sick from this bacterium? From the adults. In recent years, it was concluded that children are catching this bacteria from adults that are harboring the bacteria as merely an annoying cough.Although it is mostly a nuisance, pertussis can cause apnea, rib fractures, and even a syndrome resembling shaken baby syndrome in infants. In older children and even adults, pertussis can cause rib fractures, incontinence, pneumonia, vomiting, and insomnia.

There is a simple test that can be done at the doctor’s office and sent to the local lab to diagnose a
person with pertussis. Antibiotics are necessary for the person infected so they do not give it to others as well as those exposed to prevent further spread. Once the coughing phase has begun, antibiotics do
not reverse the cough or other effects of pertussis. Even more important than how to treat the bacteria
is how to prevent it. Vaccinate. Vaccinate. Vaccinate. Not only should your children be up-to-date in
their pertussis vaccine, but all adults need to get a booster of pertussis if they have not done so in the
last few years. Pertussis vaccines are combined with tetanus and diphtheria. Most ER’s in the surrounding ommunities are giving “Tdap” vaccines when tetanus is indicated. If you are in doubt, call your doctor or just get vaccinated. Most physician offices carry the vaccine as well as the local health department.

Let’s keep this “big bad whoop” contained this winter in Madison County.

Dana Lenhart, D.O.

Article originally appeared on Sunshine Pediatrics (
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