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What You Need to Know About Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is on the rise. Since January, the state of Ohio had 1,014 confirmed or probable cases. In fact, a Columbus school district has canceled two school days surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday due to an outbreak of whooping cough. In Cincinnati and Hamilton County, 46 cases were reported just in October. And, in Kentucky one county, Scott County, 19 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed as of Nov. 20.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is spread though sneezing and coughing and is highly contagious. Attack rates are close to 80-90% in susceptible individuals. Infants are the most likely to suffer serious complications leading to an oxygen requirement or periods when they stop breathing. However, older children and adults can suffer from a prolonged severe dry cough.

Because the vaccination can weaken over time, we recommend older children, adults, and women who have just delivered be vaccinated with a booster shot. In addition, if confirmed to have whooping cough, children should not return to school until they have been on antibiotics for five days. If you think you might have been exposed, please call your doctor to determine if you should receive antibiotic prophylaxis.

Since the spike in 2010, St. Elizabeth has responded by providing more than 10,000 free vaccinations to mothers and their families. As a St. Elizabeth patient, you can receive this vaccination. If you are not a patient, you can receive a Dtap booster from any St. Elizabeth Physicians Urgent Care Clinic or contact the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

What do you do when your baby drops their pacifier?

Recently, a study was done by Pediatrics to determine the effects of a parent sucking on their child’s pacifier in order to clean it.

Researchers studied 184 Swedish babies and concluded that the parent’s saliva changed the collection of bacteria, or microbials, on the pacifier. And, found that allergic reactions, such as eczema and asthma, dramatically decreased in 18 to 36-month-old babies.

While this sounds like a breakthrough discovery, there are mixed feelings about whether the lack of exposure to these bacteria early in life could affect children’s health. Dr. Catherine DeFoor of St. Elizabeth Pediatrics in Florence gives her opinion on this recent study:

I've read the study and find the results very interesting. I know there is extensive ongoing debate and research regarding early microbial exposure and allergy prevention in children.

There is the line of thought that, in general, our society has become excessively paranoid regarding exposure to microbials, which has led to an increase in allergies, asthma and eczema. Furthermore, sucking on your child's pacifier and then putting it into their mouth does seem an effective method for transferring microbials to your child. However, in doing so you don't really have a choice in which microbials are transferred and I'm not sure we know enough about which microbes would be protective against the development of allergies/asthma/eczema.

They did state that there wasn't an increased incidence of respiratory infections, but I do not feel their research adequately addressed the risk of other potentially transferred infections, such as gastrointestinal viruses, candidiasis, and herpes stomatitis. They also need to further research the risk of transmitting cariogenic bacteria to children. I feel the results of the study are intriguing and should lead to further research.

I will say that I do not routinely recommend parents boil their child's pacifiers. However, I will not start asking them to clean them with their mouths based on this study.

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