Whooping Cough Causes, Prevention And Treatment Options


Pertussis, sometimes known as whooping cough, is a very infectious respiratory ailment. It is frequently distinguished by a harsh hacking cough followed by a high-pitched air intake that resembles a "whoop".

Before the creation of the vaccine, whooping cough was thought to be a disease in children. Whooping cough now mostly affects teens and adults whose immunity has worn out as well as small children who are too young to have received the entire course of immunizations.

Although rare, whooping cough deaths usually involve young children. It is crucial that pregnant women and everyone who will come into touch with a newborn receive the whooping cough vaccine.


Whooping cough is brought on by a kind of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Tiny germ-filled droplets are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and anybody close can breathe them into their lungs.

How to check if you have Whooping Cough?

Please access medical help, if persistent coughing fits result in any of the following symptoms for you or your child:

  • Vomit
  • Turn blue or red
  • Appear to be having difficulty breathing or have observable breathing pauses
  • Take a whooping breath in.

Risk Factors

Your childhood whooping cough vaccination ultimately loses its effectiveness. As a result, the majority of adults and teens are vulnerable to the virus during an epidemic, which still happens often.

The risk of serious problems and death is higher among infants less than 12 months who are unvaccinated or who have not gotten all of the necessary vaccinations.


The initial whooping cough signs and symptoms often appear seven to ten days after infection, however, they can occasionally take longer. They typically start off mild and resemble an ordinary cold:

  • Clogged nose
  • Nasal clogging
  • Red, tearing eyes
  • Fever
  • Cough

Signs and symptoms start to get worse after a week or two. Your airways get clogged with thick mucus, which results in excessive coughing. Strong and protracted coughing fits may:

  • Induce vomiting
  • Cause a face to become red or blue
  • Cause a lot of tiredness
  • Finish with a high-pitched "whoop" sound on the subsequent air intake.

Many individuals, however, never acquire the distinctive whoop. Sometimes the sole indication that a child or adult has whooping cough is a persistent hacking cough.

Children may not cough at all. Instead, individuals can have trouble breathing or even stop breathing for a while.


The pertussis vaccination, which doctors frequently provide together with shots against diphtheria and tetanus, is the most effective approach to prevent whooping cough. Doctors advise starting vaccinations in early childhood.

Five doses make up the vaccine, which is commonly administered to children between the ages of:

  • 24 weeks
  • One year
  • Sixty days
  • 15-20 months
  • 4-6 years old

Side effects of vaccines

The vaccine's side effects are often minor and might include a fever, irritability, headache, weariness, or discomfort where the injection was made.

Adjuvant shots

Adolescents. Doctors advise getting a booster dose for pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus at age 11 since protection from the pertussis vaccination tends to fade by that time.

Adults. Some varieties of tetanus and diphtheria vaccination given every ten years protect against whooping cough as well (pertussis). Additionally, this vaccination will lessen your chance of passing on whooping cough to young children.

Expecting mothers. The pertussis vaccination should now be administered to expectant mothers between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation, according to health authorities. The newborn may receive some protection from this in the early months of life.

Preventative drugs

Your doctor may suggest medications to prevent infection if you have been exposed to someone who has whooping cough if you:

  • A healthcare professional
  • Are Expecting
  • Are under the age of one year
  • Have a medical issue that puts you at risk for problems or severe sickness, including asthma or a compromised immune system with a whooping cough patient
  • Live with a person who is more susceptible to getting sick or having difficulties with whooping cough.


As whooping cough is riskier for infants, they are frequently hospitalised for treatment. If your child has trouble swallowing meals or drinks, intravenous fluids may be required. In order to stop the virus from spreading, your youngster will also be kept apart from other people.

Adults and older children can typically handle their own treatment at home.


Antibiotics can hasten healing by eliminating the whooping cough-causing germs. Preventive antibiotics may be administered to exposed family members.

Unfortunately, there are not many options for cough relief. For instance, over-the-counter cough medications have negligible impact on whooping cough and are discouraged.

Anyone receiving home whooping cough treatment should consider the following advice for managing coughing fits:

Get lots of sleep. You might be able to unwind and sleep better in a cold, calm, and dark bedroom.

Drink a lot of water. Soups, juices, and water are all healthy options. Keep an eye out for indicators of dehydration in youngsters, such as dry lips, no-tear weeping, and infrequent urinating.

Consume smaller meals. Eat smaller, more frequent meals as opposed to larger ones to prevent vomiting after coughing.

The air is clear. Keep your house free from irritants like cigarette smoke and fireplace gases that can cause coughing fits.

Stop the spread. When coughing, cover your mouth, wash your hands often, and if you must be around people, use a mask.

Complications of Whooping Cough

Adults and teenagers typically recover completely from whooping cough. When issues do arise, they frequently stem from exhausting coughing, including:

  • Ribs with bruises or cracks
  • Internal hernias
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes may have broken blood vessels.
  • Infants

Whooping cough consequences are more severe in newborns, especially those under 6 months old, and may include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Breathing slowed or halted
  • Dehydration or weight loss brought on by difficulty eating
  • Seizures
  • Brain injury
  • As they are more prone to develop whooping cough problems, babies and toddlers are more likely to require hospital care. For newborns under six months old, complications can be fatal.


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Page last reviewed: Mar 21, 2023

Next review due: Mar 21, 2025

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