Whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, is a respiratory infection in humans that is mainly caused by a bacteria called Bordetella Pertussis. It is a highly communicable disease, and the main source of infection to others is by droplet route (when an infected person sneezes or coughs, the germs spread via air and infect others). Earlier, whooping cough was called a childhood disease, but now it has been found that the disease can affect people of any age from infants to old age.
Even though death due to Whooping cough is rare but mostly occurs in neonatal ages due to respiratory failure. So it is always recommended to get your child a full course of DPT vaccination (diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus) which helps to provide immunity against diseases.
The incubation period of the Whooping Cough is 7-10 days. The incubation period of whooping cough is the time duration for the symptoms to appear in an individual after he/she has been infected with the causative organism.
Signs and Symptoms Of Whooping Cough
Whooping cough can mimic the symptoms of any other respiratory illnesses, but some differentiating factors make it unique from others. To differentiate the disease, it is important to gather a detailed history of the patient by assessing the signs/symptoms and observing physical findings. In some patients, a Whooping sound may not always be present, but a sound of hacking cough is often present.
- Mild Cough (Dry cough)
- Runny nose
- Fever (<102 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Difficulty in breathing
- Watery eyes
- Ear infections
- High- pitched Whooping sound after the end of an expiration
- Coughing spells (can last up to 1 min)
- Cyanosis (Bluish discoloration)
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal flaring
- Excessive Mucus production
In infants, the symptoms may appear differently as there might be no evidence of coughing, but there will be signs of shortness of breath or even a catch (sudden stoppage of breathing).
When should you consult a Doctor
You should see your doctor when the fever doesn’t subside; prolonged coughing exists with difficulty in breathing, bluish discoloration of the skin, multiple episodes of vomiting, seizures, etc.
Whooping cough can be highly fatal in infants below six months of age and toddlers and are needed to provide urgent medical care or even need ICU admission. The chances of Whooping cough during pregnancy are quite frequent and can result in life-threatening complications and even death of babies.
- Brain hemorrhage
- Fracture or Cracked ribs
- Abdominal or Diaphragmatic hernias
- Slower or stopping of breathing
- Severe dehydration
- Weight loss (due to inability to feed)
Diagnosing Whooping Cough
Initially, the disease may present with mild symptoms of flu, cold or bronchitis. But your doctor may able to find the cause of your disease by performing some lab tests and investigation such as:
Culture of the organism: Your doctor will take a sample from the throat or nose. The sample is then cultured into the lab to find the bacteria. The appearance of Bordetella Pertussis is a confirmatory finding of the disease.
Blood test: Your doctor will take a sample of your blood to find any signs of systemic infections. Usually, a rise in WBC (white blood cell) count signifies a presence of infection.
Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray of lungs Your doctor will take a sample is done to identify the signs of Pneumonia or any accumulation of fluids within the lungs.
Treatment for Whooping Cough
To prevent yourself or your child from Whooping cough, it is always necessary to get DPT vaccination ( diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus). Infants who are below 12 months of age and haven’t been vaccinated yet, need to get a shot of DPT vaccination as the risk of complications and death are higher in them.
Children must be vaccinated with the DPT vaccine in the following months:
- 2 months of age
- 4 months of age
- 6 months of age
- 15- 18 months of age
- 4- 6 years of age
The immunity from the vaccine will be useful until 11 years of age. So for adults, it is recommended to get a booster shot to protect themselves against diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis, which not only helps in building up your immunity but also helps in stopping the transmission of the disease. For Pregnant Women, itis recommended getting vaccinated at 27-36 weeks of gestation, which helps provide your unborn child immunity for the disease.
Treatment for Whooping Cough is usually done by using Broad Spectrum of Antibiotics. Still, if the disease duration is long, the only use of antibiotics won’t help in resolving the disease. Pertussis can be very dangerous in children and may need hospital admission and include oxygen supplementation, ICU admission, and even Ventilation support. Do not use any cough expectorants or suppressants as it may complicate the disease more. Always get yourself checked through by a professional health worker and then have your medicines as per the medical advice.
Here are some easy precautions to take while at home:
- Get yourself plenty of rest to build immunity against the disease
- Drink plenty of fluids, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh juice or water
- Have small meals when required, which will help prevent vomiting due to continuous coughing spells
- Breathe clean air, keep your surroundings clean from dust, fumes, smoke as it can worsen the disease
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the main Cause of Whooping Cough?
Ans. Whooping cough, a respiratory illness, is mainly caused by a bacterium called Bordetella Pertussis. After entering the human body, it attaches itself to the cilia of the lungs (hair-like extension) and multiplies itself and release toxins to cause symptoms.
- Can Whooping Cough go away on its own?
Ans. The bacteria of Whooping Cough remains active in humans and produces cough for almost three weeks and then resolves on its own. During that period if antibiotics are not given, it is no longer given afterward. Antibiotics are used to prevent symptoms and help to stop transmission of disease
- What are the long term effects of Whooping Cough?
Ans. Whooping Cough cause can cause severe infections like Pneumonia, Otitis Media (ear infection), recurrent seizures, damage brain function, abdominal hernias, and even death (especially infants).
- Is Whooping Cough dry or Wet?
Ans. The initial symptoms of Whooping Cough may present as any similar symptoms like the common cold or flu-like mild fever, running nose, teary eyes, nasal congestion, and dry cough. Later, as the disease progresses, the severity of the cough increases (up to 2 weeks) from a dry cough to a wet cough.
- Does Whooping Cause damage your lungs?
Ans. Although Whooping cough does not cause a long term effect on the lungs, younger patients may need hospitalizations, and in some, it can be fatal. The bacteria of Whooping Cough attaches itself to the cilia of the lungs and produces toxins. It damages the cilia. Later infections in the lungs occur like Pneumonia which may turn severe and can affect the lungs and allow accumulation of fluids within the lungs’ parenchyma.