Pertussis: It’s not just for kids.

Have you or someone you know had a cough that just wouldn’t go away? Then did you end up on antibiotics that didn’t help or only helped a little? Then did it finally go away after weeks and weeks of coughing? Well, there is a good chance you had pertussis.

Here are 3 things you should know about pertussis:
Vaccines do not make you immune for life
You’re only contagious before you start coughing
Antibiotics won’t treat pertussis once you’ve started coughing

Many people are under the impression that once you receive a vaccine for something, you no longer have to be concerned about catching that bug, or at least you don’t have to worry about it for a very long time. When the pertussis vaccine is given to children, it is only effective for 4-10 years. For adults, the effect last for 7-10 years. Just to be clear, I am not advocating going out and getting a booster vaccine. I just want you to be aware that you may be susceptible.

Unfortunately, pertussis looks like any regular cold for the first couple of weeks, so the diagnosis is often missed. The worst part of is that this is the time that you are the most contagious. So you can pass Pertussis on before you know you have it and before you even start coughing. The good news is that the only way to spread this bug is through direct contact with the respiratory droplets. You almost have to cough in someone’s face. The bug doesn’t live on surfaces like silverware or toys. And while it is easy for adults to avoid coughing on other people, consider keeping a closer eye on children who are still learning to cover their mouths when they cough.

The reason you start coughing is that you are having a reaction to the toxins that these little bugs produce. It isn’t actually the bug itself that causes all of the havoc. These toxins cause damage to the cilia in your trachea. What this means is that you won’t be able to move mucus out of your lungs. You may feel like you keep coughing and coughing, but just can’t get that ‘gunk’ out. It is at this stage that many people seek medical attention because they’ve now been sick for over 3 weeks. The reason antibiotics don’t help at this point is that the bacteria are mostly gone and, as I mentioned above, it’s the toxins that are causing the problem. Antibiotics don’t treat toxins. This is when naturopathic medicine, homeopathic medicine and other complimentary medicines like acupuncture can be extremely helpful in individualizing a treatment plan for you to help your body clear out the toxins.

If you do get to this point, there are a few things you can try. Try taking a hot bath in epsom salts, or gargle with it. The toxin can be inactivated by heat and the gene that produces the toxin can’t survive in Epsom salts. You can also drink hot tea to get heat directly into your throat. Consider echinacea, elderberry or green tea.