Banner Health Services  

What is whooping cough?

Dr. Chmura  

Kathryn Chmura, MD, is a pediatrician at Banner Health Clinic in Greeley, Colorado. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Chmura, call (970) 810-5828.

Question:  What is whooping cough?

Bordetella pertussis is more commonly known as “whooping cough.” It is highly contagious and is spread by contact with aerosolized droplets produced by coughing or sneezing.  The incubation period is from 6 -21 days, usually 7-10 days, after exposure to a person with pertussis.

Pertussis starts with a runny nose and slight cough; usually with no fever.  The cough worsens over one-two weeks with bouts of violent coughing lasting several minutes. Bouts of coughing are often followed by vomiting. Bluish facial color change and apnea (pauses in breathing) are common in infants.

In older infants and preschool children, the cough may be followed by a “whooping sound.” Older children and adults typically have a persistent cough with no “whoop.”

Although pertussis is thought of as a childhood disease, adults can get it too, as vaccination protection received as a child wanes (lessens) after the age of 12. Unfortunately, many adults with pertussis are not treated by their doctor and pass it along to others, particularly young children.

Pertussis is diagnosed by obtaining a swab or aspirate from a person’s nose or throat. Antimicrobials are recommended for the treatment of pertussis cases. Patients should be treated as early in the course of illness as possible. Symptoms may not necessarily resolve with treatment, however, if treatment is started early in the course of illness, symptoms may be lessened. Cases will become noninfectious after completing five days of appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Pertussis outbreaks occur every year because children (and adults) are not immunized. Young children, adolescents and adults can receive the pertussis vaccine. Pertussis is most serious for babies under one year of age.  Pertussis can also lead to other serious health problems including death.  Approximately one in 10 children develop pneumonia and about 20 in every 1,000 suffer convulsions (seizures).  The risk of suffering and death caused by whooping cough is far greater than the possible side effects of the shot. 

Be sure to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or, alternatively, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Put your used tissue in the waste basket.  Always clean your hands after coughing or sneezing with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

If you or your child show signs of pertussis, please consult your physician.


Page Last Modified: 10/07/2015
Follow Us:  
Facebook IconPinterestTwitter IconBlogYouTube Icon
Jump to top links