Whooping Cough

1 What is Whooping Cough?

A highly contagious respiratory tract infection is called whooping cough or pertussis. It is marked by a severe hacking cough that is followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sound like a whoop.

This is considered as a childhood disease before the vaccine was developed but now it affects teenagers and adults who have low immunity as well as young children to who hve not completed their full vaccinations.

There are deaths that are related to whooping cough but are rare but most common in infants.

It is important for people who have a close contact with an infant and to pregnant women to have a whooping cough vaccination.

2 Symptoms

It takes about 7 to 10 days for symptoms and signs to appear but sometimes it can take longer once you become infected with whooping cough.

It is similar with a common cold:

It is mild at first then it will worsen after a week or two. There will be uncontrollable coughing due to thick mucus that accumulated inside your airways and this might:

  • red and blue face;
  • provoke vomiting;
  • extreme fatigue;
  • a whooping sound at the end of your breath.

In some cases infants may not cough at all but will struggle to breathe and may even stop breathing or adults will only have one symptom like a persistent hacking.

If you have a prolonged coughing or your vomit, turn blue or red or struggling with breathing, consult your doctor right away.

3 Causes

The cause of whooping cough is bacteria. Small germ-laden droplets are sprayed into the air and breathed in to the lungs of anyone in contact when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading the germs.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing the symptoms of whooping cough to receive a diagnosis. Bring a notebook and write down the symptoms that you are experiencing and also the immunizations you or your child had. Write down past medical problems.

Some of the questions that your doctor may ask you include:

  • When did the cough start?
  • How long does it last?
  • Does anything trigger it?
  • Does it cause vomiting?
  • Do you have a blue or red face when coughing?
  • Have you been exposed to anyone with whooping cough?

Your doctor will first conduct a physical exam by using a stethoscope to listen to your lungs. Mostly it is hard to diagnose whopping cough at an early stage because it might be similar to other common respiratory illnesses like flu, cold or bronchitis.

Some tests that can be done to confirm the diagnosis are:

  • a throat and nose culture test – your doctor will take a suction sample from you nasopharynx to check for whooping cough bacteria;
  • blood test – to check your white blood count who helps in fighting infections, there will be a presence of inflammation or infection if you have a high white blood cell count;
  • chest X-ray – to check for fluids or inflammation in the lungs that occurs with pneumonia or other respiratory infections.

5 Treatment

Whooping cough is dangerous for an infant that is why they will likely be hospitalized for treatment.

To prevent infection from spreading, a child will be isolated from others and intravenous fluids will be necessary if a child cannot keep down foods or fluids.

But for children and adults, they can have treatments in their home. Antibiotics might be recommended to speed your recovery and to kill the bacteria but over the counter medicines for cough will only have small effect on whooping cough.

6 Prevention

Pertussis vaccine that is mostly given in combination with vaccines against two other diseases (tetanus and diphtheria) is the best way to prevent a whooping cough.

It is best to be vaccinated during infancy and is consist of a series of 5 injections given to kids at these ages (2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, 4-6 years old).

The side effects of the vaccine may be mild and might include:

  • headache,
  • fever,
  • fatigue,
  • soreness at the injection area
  • and crankiness.

Doctors recommend a booster shot at age 11 because immunity from the pertussis vaccine will wane on that age and to protect you from getting whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria.

For adult, there is the every-10-year tetanus and diphtheria vaccine that may protect you from whooping cough and to reduce the risk of you transmitting and infecting infants.

Even pregnant women should receive the vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation and may give protection during the first few months to the infants.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the alternative remedies for relieving the symptoms of whooping cough include:

  • Garlic, one of the most effective remedy, extract the garlic juice and give one teaspoon two to three times a day;
  • Onion, to relieve you of coughing;
  • and diet by getting rid of all the foods that can cause phlegm build up like dairy products and by eating vegetables such as spinach and cabbage.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Follow some of these lifestyle tips in order to cope with whooping cough:

  • get plenty of rest and relaxation;
  • drink plenty of fluids such as water, soups and juices;
  • look out for dehydration such as crying without tears, dry lips and infrequent urination;
  • eat smaller meals to avoid vomiting and choking;
  • keep your home free of irritants which can trigger coughing spells like fumes from fireplaces and tobacco smoke;
  • wash your hands often;
  • wear a mask;
  • and cover your mouth when you cough.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with whooping cough.

The two main reasons for whooping cough are the vaccine wears off, during an outbreak you are susceptible to this infection.

Until kids have received at least three shots, leaving those 6 months and younger at great risk of being infected they are not yet fully immune to whooping cough.

Some adults and teenagers will recover from it with no problem but when complications occur, it is the side effects of a strenuous coughing such as:

  • cracked or bruised ribs;
  • broken blood vessels in the skin or the whites in your eyes;
  • abdominal hernias.

Complications in infants are more severs especially below 6 months old and this includes:

  • dehydration;
  • weight loss due to difficulty in eating;
  • slowed or stopped breathing;
  • pneumonia;
  • brain damage;
  • and seizures.

This can be fatal to infants especially those who are under 6 months old.

10 Related Clinical Trials