Whooping Cough (pertussis)

Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India
First Created: 12/27/2013  Last Updated: 08/01/2015

Patient Education

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough is an infection caused by the bacteria- Bordetella Pertussis (pronounced as Bor-de-tell-a). It is also known as pertussis. Pertussis is derived from a Latin name (per-intensive and tussis-cough). Patients present with severe spasmodic cough (cough accompanied by a whoop).

How is whooping cough caused?

The disease spreads by airborne droplets that are transmitted by sneezing or coughing by an infected person. However, with universal vaccination with DPT vaccine, the incidence of pertussis has markedly dropped but still, epidemics occur every 3-4 years.

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

Symptoms of pertussis consist of cough. The initial stage is characterized by cold fever and mild cough which lasts for 1-2 weeks, which then progresses to increased intensity of spasmodic cough accompanied by a whoop. The stage of this whoop lasts for 2 to 6 weeks or even longer. Recovery is accompanied by a decrease in the intensity and decrease in the episodes of the cough which lasts for 1 to 2 weeks.

How is whooping cough diagnosed?

Any child who coughs for more than 2 to 3 weeks without any obvious cause should be suspected to have whooping cough, particularly in a child who has not received the DPT vaccine. In an immunized child (a child who has received DPT vaccine), whooping cough like features can be caused by other germs such as parapertussis and adenovirus. The diagnosis can be confirmed by isolating the germ on a culture.

What are the complications of whooping cough?

Complications of pertussis include pneumonia, ear infection (otitis media). Due to severe bouts of coughing, the air from the lungs may leak (pneumothorax). Severe coughing may also increase pressure in various organs leading to bleeding in the nose, eyes, and even the brain. There may be a tendency to form a hernia.

What is the treatment of whooping cough?

Treatment of pertussis consists of antibiotics for 7-10 days. It does not decrease the course of the illness but decreases the period of infectivity thus preventing transmission to other people. If the child has difficulty breathing, is lethargic, and has severe bouts of coughing, hospitalization is required. Complications if they occur need to be managed under expert care. Occasionally cough suppressants are required.

How is whooping cough prevented?

Pertussis is prevented by giving DPT vaccines as per the universal immunization schedule. DPT is given at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of life and booster shots are given at 1½ years and 4½ years of age.

Persons who are in close contact (family members) with a patient having pertussis should receive antibiotics to prevent infection.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Whooping Cough (Pertussis) https://www.pediatriconcall.com/show_article/default.aspx?main_cat=infectious-diseases&sub_cat=whooping-cough-pertussis&url=whooping-cough-pertussis-patient-education 2015-08-01
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