Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is very contagious and can cause a serious illness that lasts for weeks. Whooping cough in young children can be life threatening, especially in babies; half of all babies who get whooping cough have to be hospitalized.

Get protection against whooping cough. It is easy to prevent. Be sure to get vaccinated.

Pertussis prevention

There is a vaccine available for babies, children, teens and adults. It’s important for babies and children to get the whooping cough vaccine, which is a series of shots, to be fully protected. Pregnant women should be vaccinated against whooping cough.

All adults, 19 and older, should get a one-time whooping cough booster shot. Anyone who has close contact with infants should also consider getting the vaccine. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about the pertussis vaccine.

What is pertussis?

Pertussis, also known as the whooping cough, is a serious bacterial infection that causes intense coughing fits. Pertussis is incredibly contagious.  Bacteria attack the lungs, causing airways to restrict. It becomes hard to catch your breath and breathe.

A whooping sound is often heard after coughing fits.  With whooping cough, people may cough so much that they vomit.

Whooping cough causes

Pertussis is passed from person to person through drops of saliva. An infected person may pass on the disease through coughing, sneezing or kissing.

Washing your hands and coughing/sneezing into your upper arm or elbow instead of your hand will reduce the spread of pertussis.

Infected people can spread the bacteria up to two weeks after coughing begins.

Pertussis symptoms

Pertussis symptoms vary depending on age and progression of the infection. Initial symptoms, which last one to two weeks, can include:

  • Mild fever
  • Runny nose
  • Mild, occasional cough
  • Babies may have pauses in breathing (apnea) while asleep

As pertussis continues, the symptoms usually get worse and can last from one to six weeks:

  • Extreme coughing fits with whooping sound
  • Vomiting after coughing
  • Exhaustion

If you believe you or your loved one could have pertussis, seek immediate medical attention.

Pertussis testing

Testing for pertussis includes a physical examination, followed by blood or mucus tests.

These tests show the presence of the bacteria.

Early testing can help speed up the recovery process. Contact your provider to get tested.

Treating pertussis

Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. It is important to get immediate treatment if infected.

Pertussis bacteria are usually gone by two weeks of infection. Treatment reduces the amount of damage done by bacteria and improves the chance of a proper recovery.

Pertussis typically goes away without issues if treated properly. Complications and severity of infections can lead to hospitalization and further illness.

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