Whooping cough


Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. It is spread through contact with an infected person through coughing or sneezing. The illness usually starts with mild cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild cough. As the illness progresses, the cough can become severe, resulting in long spells of coughing followed by a high-pitched “whoop”. Complications of whooping cough can include pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and in some cases, death. Treatment for whooping cough includes antibiotics and supportive care. Vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of whooping cough.


The symptoms of whooping cough (pertussis) typically begin 5–10 days after exposure to the causative bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. During the first stage, usually lasting 1–2 weeks, people often experience cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and mild, occasional coughing.

As the disease progresses, the coughing typically becomes more frequent, more severe and more violent. During a coughing fit, a person may expel air with such force that it makes a high-pitched ‘whooping’ sound. The coughing can also cause the person to experience vomiting or exhaustion.

Other symptoms associated with whooping cough include rapid breathing, snoring and apnea (temporary cessation of breathing).


Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. The primary known causes of whooping cough are direct contact with an infected person, including through coughing and sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces. Additionally, the bacteria may be transmitted through aerosolized droplets released while an infected person coughs or sneezes. Vaccination is the primary preventive measure against pertussis. It is recommended for all children and those in close contact with those children.

Risk factors

The primary risk factor for whooping cough (pertussis) is failure to get vaccinated. Other risk factors include:

  • Age: Infants and young children under the age of 1 are at the greatest risk of developing whooping cough.
  • Living in crowded or unsanitary conditions.
  • Being exposed to an infected person.
  • Being unvaccinated or having a weakened immune system due to chronic illness or medication.
  • Being around young children or babies, who are most susceptible to the disease.
  • Having had whooping cough in the past.


Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is usually diagnosed via laboratory testing. This usually involves collecting a sample of mucus from the throat or nose and then testing it for the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. Other tests such as chest X-rays or blood tests may also be used to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor may also ask about any recent contact with a person who has been diagnosed with whooping cough, and may look for signs and symptoms such as a severe cough and difficulty breathing.


The various subtypes of whooping cough are categorized based on the stage of disease. Pertussis is divided into three stages: the catarrhal phase, the paroxysmal phase, and the convalescent phase.

The catarrhal phase is the initial stage of the disease and lasts for 1-2 weeks. It is characterized by symptoms similar to a common cold, including runny nose, mild cough, and low-grade fever.

The paroxysmal phase is the most severe stage and is typically marked by severe coughing fits that can last for up to two months. The fits are often accompanied by a “whoop” sound when the person inhales between coughing fits.

The convalescent phase is the final stage of the disease and generally lasts for 1-2 weeks. During this time, the coughing fits gradually lessen in frequency and severity.

Overall, whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. It is best prevented through proper immunization.


The treatment for whooping cough (pertussis) typically involves antibiotics and, for severe cases, hospitalization. Antibiotics are most effective if given within the first two weeks of the illness. In some cases, antibiotics may be recommended for contacts of the patient. Other treatments, such as cough suppressants or bronchodilators, may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent whooping cough, and all infants and children should be immunized as part of the recommended immunization schedule.


The best way to reduce the risk of whooping cough is to keep up with vaccinations and make sure to get booster shots as needed. If a person is in contact with someone with whooping cough, the infected individual should avoid contact with others until they have completed their full course of antibiotic treatments. It is also important to practice good hygiene and to cover the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing. Additionally, avoiding any contact with an infected individual is key to preventing the spread of the disease.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of whooping cough. Infants, who are most at risk for developing severe illnesses from this disease, are more likely to suffer additional complications if they are male. Studies have found that male infants are more likely to suffer from low oxygen levels in their blood, which can lead to long-term brain damage and even death. Male infants may also be more likely to experience more severe coughing fits, with a greater need for intensive respiratory support in the hospital.

In terms of management, boys are more likely to require more intensive medical treatments and hospitalizations, including antibiotics and supplemental oxygen. Additionally, boys may require physical therapy and chest physiotherapy to help them breathe and clear their lungs, as well as other forms of respiratory support. They may also be more susceptible to complications such as seizures, pneumonia, and encephalopathy.

Overall, it is important to recognize and take the gender differences associated with whooping cough seriously, and to tailor treatments and management strategies to the particular needs of the patient.


Nutrition plays an essential role in the management of Whooping cough (pertussis) by supporting the immune system’s ability to fight the infection. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and proteins can boost the immune system, providing it with the nutrients it needs to fight off the infection. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as dark leafy greens, berries, and nuts, can help reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system. Additionally, consuming plenty of fluids can help thin the mucus associated with Whooping cough and provide the body with the necessary hydration to promote a speedy recovery. Lastly, consuming probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut can also provide additional beneficial bacteria to help fight off the infection and support a healthy digestive system.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can have a positive effect on whooping cough by aiding in the speed of recovery and improving overall lung function. Specifically, it can help to clear mucous from the respiratory tract and can help to reduce inflammation of the airways, allowing for quicker recovery and reducing the severity of the condition. Additionally, physical activity can increase the strength of the respiratory muscles, helping them to become more efficient in the movement of air and aiding the body in controlling and fighting further infections. In this way, physical activity can help to reduce the symptoms of whooping cough and can help to ensure a more complete recovery.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/whoopingcough.html
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whooping-cough/symptoms-causes/syc-20378973
  4. https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-us/682/references
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519008/
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/pertussis

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