Sofie Wise

Mark Spera

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About Author — Mark grew up in a family of healthcare providers and has always been fascinated by preventative medicine, infectious diseases and the intersection of big data and healthcare.

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Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a bacterial infection of your respiratory system. It is caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis.

Whooping cough starts at the nose and quickly spreads to the other parts of your respiratory system. As a result, it causes uncontrollable cough that in turn can lead to breathing and other more serious problems.

Who is at risk for whooping cough?

Whooping cough can affect people of all ages, but infant and young children are more at risk. In fact, it can be deadly for very young children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whooping cough was a major cause of death among children in the United States before a vaccine became available.

It also often afflicts those with a weak immune system.

Whooping cough symptoms

It takes about three weeks for symptoms to show up after the bacteria has invaded your system. It starts with symptoms that are similar to common cold such as mild coughing, sneezing, running nose, early fever and maybe even diarrhea.

After about 10 days, the coughing persists and also turns into longer spells that end with a whooping sound when the person breathes in. The cough is always dry and doesn’t result in phlegm. Coughing spells associated with whooping cough tend to last for up to one minute.

If your coughing gets intense enough to make it difficult for you to drink fluids, get in touch with a doctor right away as you have the risk for dehydration.

Infants will not make the whooping sound, but will gasp for air while breathing and may even vomit regularly.

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose whooping cough, your doctor will run some tests of mucus accumulated in nose and lungs. Sometimes, a blood test may also be necessary to identify the presence of Bordetella pertussis.

The first course of treatment for whooping cough is antibiotics, especially if it detected early. Antibiotics are considered to be the best option to bring down cough and other symptoms, and to prevent the infection from spreading to others. Also, since whooping cough is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics are of course, very effective.

In the case of infants and young children, your doctor may recommend hospitalization for treatment, observation, and if necessary, respiratory support. Sometimes, they may even require intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, especially if the cough is persistent enough to prevent them from drinking fluids.

If treating at home, doctors suggest turning on humidifiers to keep the air moist and to reduce the possibility of dry cough that can come with a whooping sound.

Cough medicines are not recommended though because they do not address the root cause of the problem.

If you or your loved one may have whooping cough, it’s important to get treated right away. PlushCare allows anyone to speak with a doctor, get diagnosed and prescribed medication from phone or desktop computer.

PlushCare physicians can prescribe antibiotics to your local pharmacy. Book an appointment now. They’re available every 15 minutes.