Whooping Cough

What is Whooping Cough?

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It is most commonly found in young children, though it can affect people of all ages. The disease is characterized by a severe, uncontrollable cough followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound when inhaling. It is highly contagious and can spread through close contact with an infected person.

What are the Symptoms of Whooping Cough?

Most people with whooping cough develop symptoms within seven to 10 days after being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms typically progress in three stages:

  • Catarrhal Stage: Runny nose, low-grade fever, and mild, occasional cough
  • Paroxysmal Stage: Severe coughing fits which may also include vomiting and exhaustion
  • Convalescent Stage: Cough eventually diminishes, but can take up to 10 weeks to fully resolve

How is Whooping Cough Treated?

Whooping cough should be treated with antibiotics, which can help reduce the severity and duration of the disease. In some cases, additional treatment may be offered to provide relief from the discomfort of coughing fits and other symptoms. This may include:

  • Cough suppressants
  • Oral sedatives
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Inhaled medications or nebulizers

Can Whooping Cough be Prevented?

The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated. Nearly all cases of whooping cough occur in people who have not been vaccinated. The vaccine is usually given as a combination vaccine that also protects against diphtheria and tetanus (known as the DTaP vaccine). Vaccination is recommended for everyone, but especially important for those who will be around young babies who are too young to get vaccinated, such as parents, siblings, and other caregivers.