The scarlet letter ‘P’

When I tell people that we are working through pertussis in our house, I feel like they see me wearing a Scarlet Letter P. A modern day Hawthorne classic! The following question usually is, “Didn’t you immunize your kids?” Of course we did. AND, we have our boosters, too!

The coughs have been in and out of our house since mid-December.  Throughout the past month, all three boys have been tested for pertussis. I was surprised our pediatrician’s office tests for pertussis if the child has a cough. It has become protocol at this time of year since pertussis is common.  In early January, I came down with “the cough.”  As it became worse, I had the rapid coughing that led to vomiting in the middle of the night. (Weeks later, I learned that pertussis was linked to strong coughing with vomiting.)  I soon went to my physician and received a Z-Pak.  About two weeks after I started on Z-Pak, our other two boys were tested. The youngest (4 years old) seemed to have my cough – he too was vomiting with coughing.  I had the gut feeling he was going to be pertussis positive – he had a weird cough.  I was unfortunately right.  Our entire family (finally) was treated with Z-Paks.  I was never tested, but my coworkers (who could hear me even down the hall) believed I, too, had pertussis.  Luckily, only two of the five of us had pertussis.  Even better, it was during the cold and snowy weeks of January when our boys had days off and two hour delays so they could sleep extra and recover.

The Z-Pak antibiotic treats the bacterium Bordetella pertussis from spreading to others. A person is usually working through cold like symptoms for 1-2 weeks before they have the rapid and honestly, horrible, coughing fits.  During these weeks, the person is contagious! The cough will last for months after taking the antibiotic– before pertussis was known as the whooping cough, it was known as the 100 day cough.  In our house, we didn’t have true whooping noises, but had the “can’t get my breath” coughing noise.  Our stack of 8 medicine bottles and bags of cough drops have dwindled down to just 2 cough medicines (and still, cough drops) – we must be getting better, right?!?

How did we eat during this time? We focused on drinking liquids and eating comfort foods (soups, jello, 7-up and grilled cheese). As we felt better, we didn’t always have the appetite, so eating foods full of nutrition was key!  For our 4 year old son, meal times continue to be challenging – is he being picky or truly not feeling well?

Why did we get pertussis?  My answer after being asked if we were immunized is this: “Pertussis does still exist.  It is not a dead illness.”  Fortunately, we were immunized and because of that, we didn’t have it as bad as we could have. But, let me tell you this, I would not wish this on anyone!!  And, now I get why the babies infected with pertussis must come to the hospital – they can’t breathe!  We parents are lucky to have Dayton Children’s around the corner – just in case!

For other helpful tips when ill, read When Vomiting and Diarrhea Hit Home.



  1. Reply
    Sue February 26, 2014

    Thanks for sharing.  This is very well written.  Rarely do we hear from someone who has personal experience.  It’s usually textbook comments and many people don’t relate to that information.

  2. Reply
    Becky March 12, 2014

    Thank you, Sue. 
    When these times hit home, it deepens our perspective. And, I think we are then better able to help others. 
    I appreciate you reading!  Enjoy the blog!

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