The Recurrent Case of Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is a serious respiratory infection caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The infection is characterized by uncontrollable coughing that can make it difficult to breathe.

Whooping cough affects humans of all ages. It is severe and fatal in children and infants.

Symptoms of pertussis in adults may include:

1. Severe, long-lasting coughing fits which are followed by gasps of breaths which are due to the washing out of oxygen in the air intake.

2. Patients experience extreme vomiting after these coughing fits.

3. The patient seems to be fatigued after these fits.

Whooping cough is spread by direct contact with droplets coughed by an infected person. The bacteria are then transmitted to the respiratory passages where they extubate and produce toxins which damage the tiny cilia/hair that are needed to trap and excrete the particulate matter and cellular debris.

Whooping cough is highly contagious. Between 75% to 100% of the unimmunized household gets the pertussis strain. This is a high amount of number and hence the government has made it clear, by introducing the famous vaccine called DPT. This is administered to combat three different strains of pathogens.

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What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

The early symptoms include a common cold and include a runny nose, cough, and fever. By 2 weeks of initial symptoms, a dry and persistent cough develops which makes breathing very difficult.

Children often make a ‘whoop’ sound when they try to inhale after a series of coughing spells. The classical whooping sound is less common in infants.

What is the treatment of the whooping cough bacterial infection?

  • The DPT vaccine (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) vaccine is to be administered to the children and infants in order to provide adequate immunity to the children.
  • In hospitalized cases, intravenous fluids for dehydration and respiratory support may be given.
  • Since whooping cough is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are the primary course of treatment. Antibiotics are most effective in the early stages of the infection.

What is the prevention technique adapted for whooping cough?

The vaccination of pertussis is given at 3 dosage durations: 2 months, 4 months and 6 months. The booster shots are also needed and can be given from 15 to 18 months, 4 to 6 years and again at 11 years old.

What can be done at home to prevent/treat whooping cough?

  • If a child is being treated for pertussis, the antibiotics should be given regularly. The cough medicine should be prevented from giving. The cough medicine does not help and hence does not relieve the coughing spells.
  • Let the patient lie on the bed and use an inhaler to soothe the irritated lungs and breathing passages. Keep your home free of potential irritants like ash, tobacco smoke, and smoke from cooking, wood-burning stoves and aerosol sprays.
  • You should immediately take the child to the hospital if he shows the following signs:

         Thirst, irritability, restlessness, lethargy, sunken eyes, crying without tears and fewer trips to the bathroom to pee.

Tags:  Whooping cough symptoms, Whooping cough in adults, Whooping cough treatment

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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.