Facts on Whooping Cough
There are some illnesses and conditions that have the misconceived reputation for being only maladies of children, but that actually can, and do, impact older people. In the context of your elderly care efforts with your aging parent, understanding these illnesses and their risks can help you keep her safer and healthier as she ages. One of these illnesses pertussis. Also known as whooping cough, this illness is an extremely contagious respiratory infection that tends to impact the young and the elderly due to weakened immune systems.
Whooping cough tends to develop in two distinct stages. The first stage develops symptoms between a week and ten days after coming into contact with the infection. These include:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Redness in the eyes
- Congestions or stuffy nose
These symptoms can be quite mild and it is easy to mistake them for a simple common cold. After the first couple of weeks, however, the symptoms generally get worse. As the mucus in your parent’s body thickens it can block the airways. This leads to bouts of uncontrollable, often violent coughing. During and after these coughing episodes, which can last for several minutes, your parent might experience symptoms such as:
- Blue or red coloration of the face
- Vomiting caused by the strain
- A high, tell-tale “whoop” that generally occurs in the middle of the next breath
- Deep, hacking cough
- Struggling to breath
It is very important to note that even though the whooping sound of the cough is the characteristic that many people listen for when determining if their loved one really does have pertussis, this symptom may not exist. Not every case of whooping cough includes this sound, but the illness is just as severe. If your aging loved one has been exhibiting the other symptoms and they have persisted for more than two weeks, it is important to get her to the doctor.
Some ways that you and your parent’s elderly health care services provider can comfort your parent as she recovers from whooping cough include:
- Promote clean air. Contaminated air is more difficult to breathe and will exacerbate the illness. Consider putting air purifiers into place throughout the home to remove dust, dirt, pollen, cigarette smoke, or other potential contaminants.
- Encourage rest. Getting enough rest will help your parent’s body heal and recover more efficiently. Create a healing environment for your parent that should include clean, comfortable bedding, entertainment such as books, puzzles, or the television, and easy access to healthy food and water.
- Drink plenty of water. Getting enough hydration helps to loosen up the mucus in your parent’s body. This helps it to move through her body more easily and prevents the difficult breathing.
- Eat small meals and snacks. The violent coughing episodes can lead to vomiting. This not only puts your parent at increased risk of choking, but can be irritating to her throat. Eating smaller meals or snacks reduces the chance of vomiting.
- Practice aggressive germ control. Pertussis is extremely contagious. Help protect friends, family, and your parent’s elderly health care services provider by practicing thorough germ control. Also remember that this illness will make your parent more vulnerable to infection and other illness, so it is important to protect your parent from other germs as much as possible.