Whooping Cough: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a bacterial infection that gets into your nose and throat. It spreads very easily, but vaccines like DTaP and Tdap can help prevent it in children and adults.
At first, whooping cough has the same symptoms as the average cold:
- Mild coughing
- Runny nose
- Low fever (below 102 F)
You may also have diarrhea early on.
After about 7-10 days, the cough turns into “coughing spells” that end with a whooping sound as the person tries to breathe in air.
Because the cough is dry and doesn't produce mucus, these spells can last up to 1 minute. Sometimes it can cause your face to briefly turn red or purple.
Most people with whooping cough have coughing spells, but not everyone does.
Infants may not make the whooping sound or even cough, but they might gasp for air or try to catch their breath during these spells. Some may vomit.
Sometimes adults with the condition just have a cough that won’t go away.
Children and Whooping Cough
Whooping cough is dangerous in babies, especially ones younger than 6 months old. In severe cases, they may need to go to an ER.
If you think your child might have it, see your doctor right away.
Children under the age of 18 months with whooping cough should be watched at all times, because the coughing spells can make them stop breathing. Young babies with bad cases may need hospital care, too.
Help protect your child by making sure he and any adult who's around him often gets vaccinated.
For older children and adults, the outlook is usually very good.
If doctors diagnose whooping cough early on, antibiotics can help cut down coughing and other symptoms. They can also help prevent the infection from spreading to others. Most people are diagnosed too late for antibiotics to work well, though.
Don't use over-the-counter cough medicines, cough suppressants, or expectorants (medicines that make you cough up mucus) to treat whooping cough. They don't work.
If your coughing spells are so bad that they keep you from drinking enough fluids, you risk dehydration. Call your doctor right away.