Whooping cough is a serious, contagious,
bacterial infection of the bronchial tubes and lungs. Immunization throughout
the world has greatly decreased the incidence of whooping cough. It affects all
ages, but is most common in children.
Frequent signs and symptoms
Dry cough that progresses to a cough with thick sputum
Severe, continual coughing bouts that last up to 1 minute. The fact
turns red or blue from lack of oxygen while coughing. At the end of each
coughing effort, the child gasps for breath with a “whooping”
Vomiting and diarrhea
Infection with Bordetellapertussis
bacteria. The disease is
transmitted by direct contact with a contagious person, or by indirect contact,
such as breathing air containing infected droplets or handling linen or other
contaminated articles. The incubation period is 5 to 7 days.
Risk increases with:
Epidemics in late winter or early spring. The bacteria become more
virulent as they spread
Crowded or unsanitary living conditions
Obtain immunizations against whooping cough for all children.
Immunizations normally begin at 2 months. Immunizations
after age 5 is not recommended. \
Isolate infected persons.
Usually curable in about 6 weeks with treatment (may range from 3
weeks to 3 months). The usual course of illness is: 2 weeks with the
non-characteristic cough; 2 weeks with bouts of the “whooping”
cough; and 2 weeks for convalescence. Some persistent coughs may continue
Children under 1 year of age are subject to severe complications or
Seizures and encephalitis
Apnea (slowed or stopped breathing)
Ruptured blood vessels in the brain
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnostic tests may include laboratory blood studies, culture of
sputum and chest X-ray.
Hospitalization with intensive care for severely ill infants. Older
children can usually be treated at home.
Isolate the ill person until fever disappears. Necessary visitors
should wear masks.
During a coughing bout in a baby, raise the foot of the crib. Place
the baby face down with the head turned to one side to help drain the
lungs. Older children usually prefer to sit up and lean forward during
Use a cool-mist, ultrasonic humidifier to soothe the cough and help
loosen bronchial and lung secretions. Clean humidifier daily.
Don’t use cough medication unless prescribed
Erythromycin started during the incubation period may be
Antibiotics may be prescribed for complications, such as middle-ear
infection or pneumonia.
Keep the child in bed until the fever disappears. Normal activity
should be resumed slowly, according to strength.
Encourage extra fluids, such as fruit juice, tea, carbonated drinks
No special diet is needed. Small, frequent meals may decrease
Notify our office if
Your child has signs of whooping cough, especially blueness of the
face with coughing bouts