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Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

​Whooping Cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that causes uncontrollable coughing. The cough is usually accompanied by a “whoop” noise that occurs when the child tries to inhale after coughing.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough

Once a child is exposed and infected with the pertussis bacteria, it can take several weeks for the signs and symptoms to occur. Initial symptoms are similar to the common cold and can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Mild fever
  • Dry cough

A week or two after the initial infection, signs and symptoms worsen due to thick mucus that accumulates inside the airways, causing uncontrollable coughing that can last up to 10 weeks and sometimes several months. In addition to coughing, the child may experience:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Choking
  • Fatigue
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • A "whoop" sound while breathing after cough

Treatment of Whooping Cough

A nasal swab test can be done to determine if your child has whooping cough. Treatment varies depending on the age of the child and how long symptoms have been present. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat young infants and prevent the spread of the disease. Oftentimes, household contacts will also need treatment. Plenty of fluids and rest are encouraged. Medications like Tylenol can be taken as well.

Babies and young children are most severely affected by whooping cough and are at a higher risk of developing complications that may require hospitalization.

If you feel your child has been exposed to the bacteria or has pertussis, contact your physician immedia​tely.

Prevention of Whooping Cough

Whooping cough can be prevented with the pertussis vaccine. The vaccine series is usually administered with other common vaccines at routine well checks. Since the vaccine fades over time, it is recommended that everyone repeat the vaccine every 10 years.​​

Immunizations;Illness and Injury Pediatrics