Whooping Cough

By: Danielle Banks
By: Danielle Banks

Parents should always take the health of their children seriously. More importantly health officials says to keep your kids updated on their vaccinations.

Twenty Virginia children have been hospitalized with the disease this year. A few of those cases were diagnosed here in the valley. Health officials say that number could drop if kids would just get their shots.

Central Shenandoah Health District's Health Director is Dr. G. Douglas Larsen. He says, "It's sad in our time to see 10 to 20 percent of our local children are not appropriately vaccinated. They may have gotten some vaccines, but they haven't gotten all the shots they should have."

Health officials said it's important for you to get your child vaccinated for whooping cough by the time they are two years old. "We stress that with the new pertussis vaccine that it is an acellular vaccine which means the vaccine has been improved,” says R.N. Marilyn Garber. "We see less side effects, less fever, less fussiness and less local discomfort."

Adults can get the disease too, but whooping cough is known to be most serious in infants. Dr. Larsen continues, "In little infants and babies the trachea is very tiny. So any swelling through an infection causes a difficulty for the little child to get both the air in and air out thus the sound-the whooping sound is a little child's struggle for breath."

Symptoms usually occur in stages. It starts like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough. The cough lasts one to two weeks and gets worse. Then comes uncontrollable coughing spells. During the spells you may vomit, or your lips and face may turn blue.

But a persistent cough might not mean you have whooping cough. Dr. Larsen says, "There are other things that can cause that kind of cough. Certainly allergies come to the top of the mind in this area, but there are other things as well."

While pertussis rarely results in death, medical experts say it's better to get the vaccine and not take the risk. "We have a vaccine now that's perfectly safe and we need to provide that to all of our children,” says Garber.

Remember that the Health Department provides free vaccines to children.

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