Whooping Cough

I have been a little quiet on the blog and this may just be the reason why! January 2019 was the month from hell not only for my darling little boy who suffered but has now almost fully recovered from whooping cough but the entire family.

To describe the situation as highly (peak) stressful, exhausting and emotional is an understatement. The concern and fear you have as a mother (and father) seeing your son go through severe coughing and chocking fits is devastating, you feel helpless and useless. I remember crying at one point helplessly and James came over to console me.

This coupled with the stress of having to explain what is going to your family and friends who you have interacted with, I would describe today as horrific and very eye opening.

I am writing this post to create awareness and hopefully give you a bit more insight to the illness, as I or we (my husband Pete and I) had no idea of what it was about.

I have learnt that there has been an outbreak of Pertussis on the city of Boroondara Victoria and also NSW from late December. In fact it is becoming more and more common and I will explain why later in this post.

I have also learnt that while your child may be fully vaccinated it doesn’t mean they are completely free from the disease.

Apparently there are strains of the disease that the vaccination doesn’t cover and there is also the weaning issue, so the further away from the vaccination you are the more chance you have at contracting it, carrying it, or a particular strain that wasn’t in the vaccination.

There is also the rise of unimmunised children combined with the weaning of adults that is causing so many more outbreaks in waves of Pertussis or Whooping cough in Australia.

Firstly, my son who is 7 is fully immunised and if your child is too, it doesn’t mean they are 100% safe from contracting Pertussis, it just means that if caught early enough their symptoms and cough won’t last as long and be as severe. The cough is severe and can often be described as a cough they had a “whoop”.

But, nearly 3 weeks in and in stage 2 of the 3 which is the worst stage I still recall the anxiety of knowing that there is a possibility that there much more to come and I was terrified. Pertussis can last up to 100 days, which is why it is often referred to as the 100 day cough. Thankfully James second stage lasted only a couple of weeks, and we are now in week 8 and he is still coughing once or twice at night and we are working through his fear now or chocking and coughing vigorously of which thankfully has not returned.

Things you need to know and how it panned out for us…

Symptoms of pertussis typically develop within 5 to 10 days after you are exposed- but sometimes could take up to 3 weeks to start. We suspect James contacted the virus just before New Year’s Eve 2018 at a local pool. We narrowed it down to this day given we didn’t do much or see many people over that period and also we narrowed it down to that day knowing when the first symptoms started.

James’s symptoms developed exactly 7 days after, and they were more frequent exactly 10 days after the suspected contraction date.

He had a small dry cough once or twice in the day, nothing unusual for him as he often gets a little cough after running around or increased physical activity and as mentioned earlier he suffered from croup from young so this was normal for us to see, and we knew how to manage it.

14 days later his cough turned to wet with phlegm and this is when we first took him to the doctors as this was unusual for him. We took him to the doctor and they diagnosed a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics.

By day 18 he was choking on his phlegm, coughing vigorous mainly at night after laying horizontally, so much so he broke capillaries in both eyes and the whites of his eyes suddenly turned red from the blood. Thankfully this did not hurt him at all and it didn’t last long (recovered in 3 weeks). He even (at the time of real illness) turned to the positive and told us that he had superpowers! We spent a couple of long nights (thank you to my amazing husband during this time) in the children’s, and from there is diagnosis was confirmed.

They say that the disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever but James’s was not like this at all. In fact it presents different in all children so we learnt. The key thing is if you are worried and the signs are slightly out of kilter to what you have seen before visit your GP and ask them for the test. The GP may refuse but if your child is 10 and under, you should insist.

Royal children’s hospital is also a fabulous resource they have a fact sheet about the virus that describes exactly what you need to do, or just call them direct.

As James was infected – the whole family and extended family who interacted heavily with James over the contagious period, the period a couple of days prior to the first cough, were recommended to take a dose of antibiotics for 5 days- this ultimately killed the virus. At this time we all stayed home (contracted cabin fever) I was still working thankfully I was able to do my work from home.

Kristina, my daughter, had a positive test also of the virus but her symptoms to date have been small coughs here and there not daily. So quite mild. The doctors put that down to her being closer to the vaccination than James was and catching / treating it early.

Given my kids were vaccinated the positive thing is that the disease and symptoms would not last as long and be as severe, although I couldn’t imagine James’s being more severe to be honest, I largely think this is because we caught it stage 2 of the virus.

Stage one for James lasted 1 week, stage two was about 2-3 weeks, and now we are in stage 3 which could last a couple of months.

Given how contagious the virus is, I had to contact all friends and family we were in contact with. This was stressful because it caused worry and anxiety for all, especially for the waiting period, and I also felt personally responsible.

Pete and I quickly became exhausted by the experience, juggling work, looking after kids, cooking every night (omg bless those people who have to cook each night- I’ve spent the last couple of weeks telling my mum and mother-in-law how grateful I am for their cooking and help) sleepless nights, we didn’t sleep in our bed for 4 weeks- we refused to have James sleep on his own just in case the chocking started. I developed exhaustion, anxiety and even suffered from my first panic attack which lasted 3 days (what the heck was that????). That’s another post altogether.

Silver lining… James is back to his happy healthy self, his immunity apparently will be better than its ever been. We know a lot of about whooping cough. We got to pretty much spend the whole of January together which is unusual. Lots of laughing, hugging and family time. And lots of lessons learnt about not being so flippant about health. Health is wealth people and hug that beautiful family of yours, and slow down!!!

There is so much more to say about this experience but I hope if anything you have learnt a little more about this awful virus.