Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease caused by Bordetella pertussis. It’s named for the severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop.”

Typically, it starts with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, slight fever, and a mild occasional cough. After one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin. It’s characterized by violent and rapid coughing until the air is gone from the lungs, forcing the person to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. This coughing stage can last up several weeks or even months.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for infants under one year of age as it can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and even death.

Vaccinations are available to prevent whooping cough and are particularly recommended during pregnancy and for those who have regular contact with young children. If diagnosed, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Causes of Whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

The bacteria attach themselves to the cilia (tiny, hair-like extensions) that line the upper part of the respiratory system. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that damage the cilia and cause inflammation (swelling).

This bacterium spreads from person to person. It is dispersed in tiny droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person nearby may inhale the bacteria and become infected. Moreover, it can also be spread by touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Children who haven’t been fully vaccinated against whooping cough are at the highest risk of this disease. However, even a person who’s been vaccinated can get the disease as the protection wears off over time. That’s why it’s important to get booster shots to maintain immunity against the disease.

Risk Factors of Whooping cough

Sure, whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is dangerous, especially for infants. Several factors increase the risk of catching or spreading the disease:

1. Not being vaccinated or not fully vaccinated: The risk of whooping cough is higher in people who have not received the vaccine. The vaccination series begins during infancy, and booster shots are recommended throughout childhood and adulthood.

2. Age: It is mainly a risk for children under 6 months of age who haven’t received all their pertussis vaccinations yet, and kids between 11-18 years old whose immunity has started to fade.

3. Living in the same household with someone who has whooping cough: Pertussis is highly contagious and spreads very easily from person to person, often within the same household.

4. Immune System: A weakened immune system can make an individual more susceptible to infections like whooping cough.

5. Travel and Exposure: Going to a region or country where whooping cough is prevalent can increase the risk of getting the infection, especially if the person is not fully immunized.

6. Pregnancies: If not vaccinated during each pregnancy, women have a higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease to their newborns.

Please remember that prevention through vaccination is critical in reducing the risk of whooping cough, and it’s important to have updated immunizations for children and adults, especially those in contact with infants.

Signs and Symptoms of Whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the lungs and airways. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of the illness:

1. Initial Stage – Cold-like Symptoms: The first symptoms resemble those of a common cold and usually appear about a week after exposure. These might include:
Mild cough
Runny nose
Low-grade fever
Loss of appetite

2. Later Stages – Severe Coughing Fits: After 1 to 2 weeks, the disease progresses to more severe symptoms, which include:
Severe episodes of rapid, consecutive coughs followed by a deep, high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop” (hence the name “whooping cough”)
Vomiting after coughing fits
Fatigue due to coughing fits
Night sweats

These severe symptoms may persist for several weeks and cause complications such as bruised or cracked ribs, abdominal hernias, and severe dehydration. Infants, in particular, may not exhibit the classic “whoop” but may instead have difficulty breathing, or they may temporarily stop breathing.

However, please note, not everyone will develop the characteristic ‘whoop’ sound. Some people, especially adults and teens, may have a persistent hacking cough instead.

Whooping cough can be a serious illness, particularly in infants under one year of age. If someone exhibits these symptoms or has been exposed to someone with whooping cough, they should seek medical attention promptly.

As symptoms can be similar to other conditions, it’s necessary to consult with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Vaccination is the primary form of prevention for whooping cough.

Diagnosis Whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. This disease is characterized by severe hacking coughs followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop”.

It initially appears like an ordinary cold, with symptoms like mild coughing, sneezing, runny nose, low fever, and a mild, occasional cough. However, after one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin leading to serious complications such as pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and in rare cases even death, particularly in infants.

The name ‘whooping cough’ comes from the sound made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing, making a “whoop” noise. Not everyone with whooping cough makes this sound, and it can be less common in infants and adults.

The best way to prevent whooping cough is through vaccination with the DTaP vaccine (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis), which is given to children in multiple doses.

Even with prevention, whooping cough can still affect individuals, in which case it is generally treated with antibiotics to control symptoms and prevent spreading. Comprehensive vaccination programs have drastically reduced the incidence of this disease, but it has not been entirely eliminated as the bacterium is still present in the environment.

Treatment of Whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Here is what the typical treatment looks like:

1. Antibiotics: They are used to kill the bacteria causing whooping cough. The most commonly used antibiotics are macrolides such as erythromycin, azithromycin, and clarithromycin. Early treatment is crucial — not only does it shorten the length of the infection, it also helps to prevent the spread of the disease.

2. Hospitalization: In more severe cases, mostly for infants, hospitalization may be necessary. The trained medical personnel will monitor the breathing and provide the necessary treatment to avoid complications.

3. Hydration and nutrition: Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and eat a healthy diet for a stronger immune system.

4. Rest: Rest is critical as the body fights off the infection.

Prevention is also key in managing this illness. The pertussis vaccine, often given in a combination vaccine (DTaP for children and Tdap for adults), is the most effective prevention method. It’s usually given during childhood immunization schedules, and boosters are recommended for adults, especially those who are in close contact with infants.

It’s essential to remember that while antibiotics can help, they won’t necessarily eliminate the symptoms instantly, especially if the disease has progressed significantly. It’s therefore important to consult a healthcare provider promptly if whooping cough is suspected.

Please note: This information does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you should do if you are experiencing symptoms. Always consult a healthcare professional if you are ill.

Medications commonly used for Whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. While the best way to prevent whooping cough is through vaccination with the DTaP or Tdap vaccines, the condition can be treated with certain antibiotics if diagnosed early enough.

Here are some common medications used:

1. Azithromycin (Zithromax): This is a type of antibiotic in the macrolide category. It’s typically given for five days to people suffering from pertussis. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

2. Erythromycin: An older antibiotic that’s used less frequently today because it tends to have more side effects than newer drugs like Azithromycin. Side effects may include stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

3. Clarithromycin (Biaxin): Another macrolide antibiotic used in the treatment of whooping cough. It is commonly prescribed for seven days, and its side effects are similar to Azithromycin.

4. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra): This is a combination antibiotic that can be used in people over 2 months of age who are allergic to first-line therapies or cannot tolerate them.

All these antibiotics are used to kill the Bordetella pertussis bacterium that causes whooping cough. If antibiotics are started early in the infection, they can help reduce the symptoms and decrease the duration of the illness. However, after 3 weeks of illness, antibiotics are not believed to affect the course of illness but are still given to prevent spreading the infection to others.

In addition to medications, hospitalization may be required for severe cases, especially in infants and young children. It’s important to monitor and manage any complications, such as hydration, pneumonia, or breathing difficulties.

Remember, it’s crucial to complete the full course of medication, even if the symptoms lessen or disappear, to fully eradicate the infection and prevent it from spreading.

Please consult with a healthcare provider for advice on medications and treatment related to Whooping cough, or any other health concerns.

Prevention of Whooping cough

Prevention of Whooping Cough, also known as Pertussis, primarily involves immunization.

1. Vaccination: The most effective form of prevention is through the vaccination DTaP for children and Tdap for adults. DTaP and Tdap vaccines protect against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. Children under the age of 7 receive the DTaP vaccine, while older children, teens, and adults receive the Tdap vaccine.

2. Immunity: Building immunity to the disease is important. That is why children need to get five doses of the DTaP vaccine – the first three doses at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, the fourth dose between 15 and 18 months, and a fifth dose when they are 4 to 6 years old. Furthermore, because immunity to Pertussis can fade over time, a booster shot (Tdap) is recommended for teenagers around the age of 11 or 12.

3. Protect Babies: Pregnant women can protect their newborns by getting the Tdap vaccine, ideally between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This passes some antibodies to the baby before birth.

4. Avoid Sick Individuals: Whooping cough is highly contagious, so avoid close contact with people who have the disease or exhibit symptoms.

5. Good hygiene: Practicing good hygiene can prevent the spread of many diseases, including whooping cough. It is important to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or an elbow when coughing or sneezing.

6. Regular hand Washing: Regular hand washing, especially after coughing, sneezing, or caring for a sick individual can reduce the risk of transmission.

Remember, in some individuals whooping cough can be severe, particularly in infants, so prevention is crucial.

FAQ’s about Whooping cough

1. What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. The coughing can make it hard to breathe and is often followed by a deep “whooping” sound when you try to take a breath, hence the name.

2. What causes whooping cough?
Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It is spread from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing.

3. What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
Early symptoms mimic those of a common cold: a runny nose, low fever, mild cough, and a pause in breathing for babies. After about 1-2 weeks, severe coughing bouts develop that can persist for weeks or even months.

4. Who is at risk of getting whooping cough?
Anyone can get whooping cough, but it is most severe for babies under a year old who haven’t been fully vaccinated. It’s also severe for people with compromised immune systems.

5. How is whooping cough diagnosed?
A healthcare provider will examine symptoms, and then a nose or throat swab or blood sample may be taken for testing.

6. What is the treatment for whooping cough?
Antibiotics are generally prescribed to treat whooping cough. Apart from this, patients need rest, plenty of fluids, and eating small meals to avoid vomiting after coughing.

7. Can whooping cough be prevented?
Yes, the best way to prevent whooping cough is through vaccination. The DTaP vaccine is recommended for babies at two, four, and six months of age, again at 15-18 months, and at 4-6 years old. The Tdap vaccine is recommended for adults and especially for those who spend time with babies.

8. Is whooping cough contagious?
Yes, whooping cough is highly contagious. The bacteria spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

9. What complications can arise from whooping cough?
Complications can include pneumonia, seizures, and in severe cases, death. In adults, complications are less severe but can include weight loss, urinary incontinence, and rib fractures from severe coughing.

10. How long does whooping cough last?
The severe coughing stages can last for several weeks or even months. The full duration of the illness is usually 6-10 weeks.

It’s recommended to contact a healthcare provider if you or your child is exhibiting symptoms of whooping cough, especially if you’ve been exposed to a person known to have the condition.

Useful links

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. In many people, it’s marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop.”

Here’s a list of useful links from journals pertaining to Whooping cough:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35604095/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26298206/

These links contain in-depth information about the disease, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies.

Complications of Whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. Complications can arise, particularly in infants and adults.

1. Pneumonia: This is the most common complication and cause of death in people infected with whooping cough.

Whooping Cough

2. Seizures: Whooping cough can cause sudden, uncontrolled, repetitive movements or alterations in consciousness, and these seizures can be an indicator of a serious complication.

3. Breathing problems: The coughing fits can become so severe that the person has difficulty breathing. There may even be periods where the person stops breathing.

4. Weight loss: The severity of the cough and the disruption in normal eating and sleeping patterns can lead to weight loss and malnutrition.

5. Dehydration: The difficulty in eating and drinking normally during a bout of whooping cough can lead to dehydration.

6. Brain damage: This is a very serious complication, while rare, due to lack of oxygen, seizures or bleeding in the brain.

7. Collapsed lung: The severity and frequency of the cough can potentially cause a collapsed lung or a lung to fill with fluid.

8. Ear infections: Whooping cough can lead to an ear infection, which, if not properly treated, could result in hearing loss.

9. Death: Although death from whooping cough is rare, it can occur, especially in infants and the elderly, who are at a higher risk of complications.

10. Broken ribs: In adults, the violent coughing can be so severe it can cause physical injury, such as a hernia or broken ribs.

For that reason, the prevention of whooping cough through vaccination is of utmost importance.

Home remedies of Whooping cough

Whooping cough, medically known as Pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It’s a serious illness and it’s very important that anyone who is suspected to have whooping cough seeks medical attention. Vaccination is the best prevention.

However, in case of a medical treatment, several home remedies could help alleviate symptoms:

1. Hydration: Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration and soothe the throat.

2. Rest: Adequate rest can support the immune system which is critical when fighting any infection.

3. Humidifier: Humidifiers can soothe irritated lungs and throat tissue, promoting easier breathing.

4. Proper diet: Eating a well-balanced diet can boost the immune system and support recovery.

5. Honey: Honey doesn’t cure whooping cough, but its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties can help relieve symptoms.

6. Vitamin C: Vitamin C can boost the immune system and may help reduce the severity of the cough.

Remember, these remedies only help to alleviate symptoms. Whooping cough is a serious infection that needs medical attention and proper medication for treatment. The main treatment for whooping cough in both children and adults is antibiotics to help stop the bacteria from spreading.

All close contacts of someone with whooping cough, especially members of the same household, should also receive antibiotics to help prevent the spread of the illness. Remaining up-to-date with vaccinations – both for children and adults – is the most effective way to prevent the disease.

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Last Update: January 12, 2024