How Do You Know If Your Cough Is Whooping Cough? See It Now!


Have you ever experienced or seen people dry coughs with a wheezing sound? These coughs are extremely painful, as it sucks the air out of your lungs and you might feel it in the head sometimes. The medical term for whooping cough is Pertussis, which can stay for a couple of weeks or even months.

The severity of this condition does not know bounds and is fatal for kids. It is a contagious condition, which requires medical help to treat it for good. Neglecting the symptoms of whooping cough can lead to complications in the respiratory system and damage to the lungs.

In this blog, we are going to explore the silent warning of whooping cough, its cause, and its symptoms. We will also be covering ways to prevent whooping cough and its treatment. So, if you are experiencing repeated dry coughs or know someone who is, then this blog is for you.

Understanding Pertussis Or Whooping Cough: How Can You Prevent It?

Symptoms Of Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis, it is highly contagious and causes uncontrollable coughs. These coughs can also lead to breathing problems and last for two minutes. The repeated and difficult-to-breath coughs can have a deep impact on a child or an infant.

Pertussis is sometimes misunderstood with croup. Another viral respiratory condition that can cause consistent coughing with a barking-like cough. Whooping cough can be confirmed with a “whoop” sound at the end of the cough. Both the coughs are commonly found in babies and are dangerous. But the advantage of croup is that it can go away within a week, whereas whooping cough can last for more than two months.

The major risks of developing whooping cough are

  • Brain disease or encephalopathy
  • Slowed breathing
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Uncontrollable tremblings
  • Pneumonia
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • The fracturing of a rib

Signs And Symptoms Of Whooping Cough

Causes Of Whooping Cough

There is a long list of symptoms when someone is suffering from pertussis. Since the condition can last from weeks to months, we have categorized them according to their durations.

Early Stage

This stage lasts for 1-2 weeks with mild symptoms and is contagious at this time. The symptoms may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sneezing
  • Mild coughing
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased need for urination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Common cold
  • Dry mouth

Later Stage

This stage can last up to 6 weeks or more. It is a risky period for infants and children as breathing is difficult. The symptoms include:

  • High-pitched whoop sound while coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Struggling to breathe between coughs
  • Unable to sleep at night because of frequent coughs at night
  • Apnea or brief pauses when trying to breathe

Causes Of Whooping Cough

Treating Whooping Cough

The cause of pertussis is quite simple, either you are exposed to Bordetella pertussis bacteria, or to the cough droplets from someone who is suffering from whooping cough. The initial stage of pertussis is very contagious and proper distancing should be maintained with others.

When the bacteria enters your body, it attaches itself to the lining of a respiratory tract called cilia. Post attachment, the bacteria releases toxins to the tract which causes damage and inflammation to cilia and airways. This swelling of the airways causes severe coughing and difficulty in breathing.

Infants and toddlers are at risk for whooping cough if they are exposed to the bacteria. The infection tends to weaken the immunity power and requires vaccination for full recovery.

Treating Whooping Cough

For adults, the treatment for whooping cough is a prescription of antibiotics and medications. But with children and infants, the treatment is critical as it takes more than just the medicine. There are cases where children are admitted to the hospital right after the diagnosis of Pertussis, because of the severity and low survival rate for children.

Children or infants may also develop the symptoms of pneumonia after whooping cough, and require medical attention at all costs. Oxygen and fluids will be provided as an external force to the babies during treatment.

Ways To Prevent Whooping Cough

Ways To Prevent Whooping Cough

There is no way of guaranteeing that you or your child will never be exposed to the bacteria that causes whooping cough. But you can surely prevent the disease from entering your body by getting vaccinated. The vaccine Diphtheria Tetanus Pertussis Vaccine or DTap was introduced in the year 1991 and has been effective in the prevention of pertussis.

The vaccine has a set of instructions that needs to be followed and timed at regular intervals. For adults and senior adults, there is a booster dose available that can be taken one time in the lifetime to prevent the condition of pertussis. Children are advised to receive a total of five injections of DTaP vaccine. The timeline of the dose is explained below:

  • The first dose is when the child is two months old
  • The second dose is when the child completes four months
  • The third dose is when the child is six months old
  • The fourth dose of the vaccine should be between 15-18 months
  • And the last one to be given between 4-6 years of age

In some cases, whooping cough does not leave your body, and there are certain medications and lifestyle choices that you need to adapt to. These are

  • Avoid any chance of dehydration
  • Get 8-10 hours of sleep every day
  • Keep a timeline and reminder of antibiotics
  • Invest in a humidifier for your home
  • Keep yourself and your home away from dust and smoke

Final Result

Pertussis can be a fatal condition to live with, so it is important to seek medical help when you see the symptoms. Living with this condition can be worrisome as you need to avoid smoke, dust, or irritants at all costs, that can latch onto the affected airways. Try not to take cough medicines as they are not helpful with bacterial infections. For all you know, it might worsen the conditions. So, try to get the DTaP vaccine for yourself and your loved ones to avoid this respiratory condition.


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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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