Whooping cough

Whooping cough also known as Pertussis is an infection that affects the respiratory tract and is a highly contagious infection. A severe hacking cough is followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like "whoop" in many people. Whooping cough was thought to be a childhood disease prior to the development of the vaccine. Whooping cough now primarily affects children who have not received the full course of vaccinations, as well as teenagers and adults with weakened immunity. Most commonly it occurs in infants. That is why it is critical for pregnant women and others who come in contact with an infant to be immunized against whooping cough.

Risk and complications

The whooping cough vaccine you receive as a child wears off over time. This makes the majority of teenagers and adults vulnerable to infection during an outbreak, which occurs on a regular basis. Infants under the age of 12 months who are unvaccinated or have not received the full set of recommended vaccines are at the greatest risk of severe complications and death.

Whooping Cough Prevention

The pertussis vaccine, which is often given in conjunction with vaccines against two other serious diseases — diphtheria and tetanus — is the most effective way to prevent whooping cough. Vaccination should be given during infancy.

The vaccine consists of five injections, which are typically given to children of these ages:

  • Two months
  • Four months
  • Six months
  • Between 15 and 18 months
  • 4 to 6 years old


The signs and symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of other common respiratory illnesses, such as a cold, the flu, or bronchitis, making early diagnosis difficult. Doctors can sometimes diagnose whooping cough by simply asking about symptoms and listening to the cough. To confirm the diagnosis, medical tests may be required. These types of tests may include:

Test of the nose or throat

Your doctor collects a swab or suction sample from the junction of the nose and throat (nasopharynx). The sample is then examined for evidence of whooping cough bacteria.

Blood test

Because white blood cells help the body fight infections like whooping cough, a blood sample may be drawn and sent to a lab to check your white blood cell count. In most cases, a high white blood cell count indicates the presence of infection or inflammation. This is a general test, not a test for whooping cough.

X-ray of the chest

An X-ray may be done by your doctor to check for the presence of inflammation or fluid in the lungs, which can occur when pneumonia complicates whooping cough or other respiratory infections.

Whooping Cough Treatment

Because whooping cough is more dangerous in infants, they are usually hospitalized for treatment. If your child is unable to swallow liquids or food, intravenous fluids may be required. In order to prevent the infection from spreading, your child will be isolated from others.
Treatment for older children and adults is usually possible at home.


Antibiotics are prescribed to kill the bacteria that cause whooping cough and aid in recovery. Antibiotics may be given to exposed family members as a precaution. Over-the-counter cough medications, for example, have little effect on whooping cough and should be avoided.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What causes whooping cough?

Whooping cough is caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria. These bacteria attach themselves to the cilia (tiny hair-like extensions) that line the upper respiratory system.

2. What are the stages of whooping cough?

The sickness is divided into three stages: catarrhal, paroxysmal, and convalescent. Pertussis has a 7 to 10-day incubation period. The first stage of the disease, known as the catarrhal stage, has minor symptoms that may go undiagnosed or be confused with the common cold or influenza.

3. How severe is whooping cough in adults?

Whooping cough can continue for up to ten weeks and cause pneumonia and other consequences. The symptoms of whooping cough can be mistaken with those of other illnesses. Always seek medical advice before taking any medication.

4. Does whooping cough only happen at night?

The whooping cough becomes more severe and occurs more frequently at night. It may prevent you from sleeping.

5. Do you cough up mucus with whooping cough?

Yes, the mucus may become more productive with some phlegm over the course of a few days.

6. Is whooping cough a wet or a dry infection?

After one to two weeks, the dry cough transforms into a wet cough with thick, stringy mucous.

7. Is there any home remedy for whooping cough?

Home remedies might give temporary relief from symptoms but cannot offer a permanent cure. It's always advisable to consult a doctor for proper treatment.