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What Is Whooping Cough?

What Is Whooping Cough?


Everything you need to
know about Whooping Cough

Pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough) is a bacterial infection that affects the nose and throat. It is easily shared, although vaccines such as DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) can assist children and adults avoid contracting it.

Symptoms of Whooping cough

The symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold at first:

  • Coughing that is not too severe
  • Sneezing
  • a stuffy nose
  • Low-grade fever 38.8 degrees Celcius (below 102 F)

You may also experience diarrhoea at first.

The cough progresses to “coughing fits” after 7-10 days, culminating in a whooping sound when the sufferer tries to breathe in air.

These bouts can continue for up to one minute because the cough is dry and does not generate mucus. It can cause your face to turn red or purple for a short period of time.

Coughing spells are common in persons with whooping cough, but not everyone experiences them.

During these spells, infants may not make the whooping sound or even cough, but they may gulp for air or struggle to regain their breath. Some people may vomit.

Adults with the syndrome sometimes merely have a persistent cough.


It might be difficult to diagnose whooping cough early on because the symptoms are similar to those of a cold, flu, or bronchitis. Your doctor may be able to detect it just on the sound of your cough, but tests are required to confirm it.

  • Culture of the nose or throat. The bacterium that causes whooping cough can be tested with a simple swab of the area where your nose and throat connect.
  • A blood test is required. A high white blood cell count indicates that your body is fighting an infection, but it does not always signify that the infection is whooping cough.
  • X-ray of the chest. This can reveal if your lungs are inflamed or filled with fluid, which could indicate pneumonia.


Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Small droplets containing this bacteria may fly through the air whenever a person with whooping cough sneezes, laughs or coughs. If you breathe in the droplets, you may become ill.

The germs cling to the microscopic hairs in the lungs’ linings when they get into your airways. Swelling and inflammation are caused by the bacteria, which results in a dry, long-lasting cough and other cold-like symptoms.

Anyone of any age can become ill with whooping cough. It could persist anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. It is possible to become ill from it even if you have already been vaccinated, although this is unlikely.


Whooping cough is harmful in babies, especially those under the age of six months since it prevents them from getting enough oxygen. This can lead to:

  • Damage to the brain or bleeding in the brain
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Apnea
  • Convulsions

If you suspect your child has it, take them to the doctor immediately.

Coughing spells in children under the age of 18 months should be monitored at all times since they can lead them to cease breathing. Young newborns with serious illnesses may also require hospitalisation.

Vaccinate your child and every adult that comes into contact with them on a regular basis to help safeguard them.

Whooping cough can cause pneumonia in teenagers and adults. Coughing fits can also lead to:

  • Hernias in the abdomen
  • Blood vessels that have burst
  • Ribs that have been bruised
  • You’re having trouble controlling when you pee
  • Sleeping problems

When to call a doctor

If the symptoms do not improve or :

  • If your child is under the age of six months and is showing signs of whooping cough, contact your paediatrician immediately
  • You or your child is suffering from a severe cough that is becoming more severe
  • You’ve had contact with someone who has whooping cough and you’re expecting a child
  • You or your child have been in contact with someone who has whooping cough and your immune system has been compromised.

It is quite easy for whooping cough to spread. It’s a good idea to phone your doctor first or call 111. They will be able to advise you on what to do next.


Antibiotics can help reduce coughing and other symptoms if you catch whooping cough early on. They can also aid in the prevention of infection spreading to others. However, the majority of patients are detected too late for antibiotics to be effective.

To treat whooping cough, don’t take over-the-counter cough medicines, cough suppressants, or expectorants (medicines that make you cough up mucus). They are ineffective.

You can become dehydrated if your coughing bouts are severe enough to prevent you from drinking enough fluids. If this occurs, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

There are a few things you may do to feel better and recover faster:

  • Get plenty of sleep. This can help your body battle the infection more effectively
  • As often as you feel like it, eat small meals. The vomiting that might be precipitated by severe coughing fits can be avoided by eating less and more frequently
  • The air is clean. Coughing can be relieved by keeping the air around you clear of dust, smoke, and other irritants
  • Drink plenty of water. Drink plenty of water or juice to stay hydrated. Call your doctor right away if you detect indications of dehydration, such as dry lips or less frequent urination

If your child’s discomfort does not improve, ask your doctor if it’s safe to give him or her an over-the-counter pain reliever such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Inquire about the proper dosage for your child. A child should never be given aspirin. Aspirin use in children has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a life-threatening condition.


The whooping cough vaccination prevents whooping cough in newborns and children. That is why it is critical to have all of your routine NHS immunizations.

The whooping cough vaccine is administered as part of the following vaccinations:

If you’re pregnant, you should get the whooping cough vaccine between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy.

Find out more about whooping cough immunisation during pregnancy.


With treatment, you should slowly start to feel better after about 4 weeks. But you’ll probably have a cough and feel weak for 3 to 6 months. From around 6 days from the onset of cold-like symptoms to 3 weeks after the coughing begins, you’re contagious.

If you start taking antibiotics within three weeks after starting to cough, you’ll be able to cut down on the amount of time you’re contagious.