3D representation of pertussis toxin. 6 protein subunits. One of several toxins produced by B. pertussis. Most lethal in babies. Toxoid form is in all acellular pertussis vaccines. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Takuma-sa
All About Whooping Cough (home page)
Also known as pertussis
Whooping cough audios, videos, detailed information, send your comments, questions answered.
The only site dedicated to this disease.
This site just about whooping cough.
I am Dr Doug Jenkinson.
I have studied whooping cough as a family doctor for over 40 years in Nottinghamshire, England.
You will find the answer to any question about whooping cough (pertussis) here.
It is much commoner than people realise because it gets missed.
It is very difficult for doctors to diagnose it because coughing is infrequent.
This site helps your doctor to diagnose you correctly when you feel you are disbelieved.
Summary section below. Go deeper via sub-heading links for more detail
Symptoms of whooping cough
children over 1year, teens and adults
It starts with a bit of a cold and mild feverishness, or a sore throat and a bit of a tickly cough.
After about 7 to 10 days the cough starts coming in spasms of continuous coughing that may last several minutes.
These paroxysms of coughing usually occur every few hours and there may be little or no coughing between the attacks.
The attacks of coughing may be followed by vomiting or drooling or both. Sometimes after the lungs have been emptied of air from a paroxysm, a deep indrawing of breath causes a whooping noise from the throat as air is sucked back in.
The number of paroxysms can vary from 5 to 50 in 24 hours. 12 is quite usual.
This can go on for 2 to 6 weeks or more before becoming less severe and slowly fizzling out over several weeks.
Babies can get very seriously ill from whooping cough especially if they are not immunised. One in a hundred are likely to die from it despite the best medical care. It is not rare. In recent years about one in a thousand was catching it unless the mother had a pregnancy booster shot.
Babies are too weak to keep coughing so violently and they are prone to not restart breathing after a paroxysm or sometimes just stop breathing instead of coughing. All babies with whooping cough need hospital treatment.
If it is caught in the very early stages before symptoms are fully developed, in the first 10 days for instance, an antibiotic such as azithromycin can reduce its severity. If given in the incubation period it may prevent it altogether.
The same antibiotic is used in the first 3 weeks from onset in order to prevent spreading it to others, but after this time it is unnecessary and not beneficial.
Babies need to be in hospital for treatment and support and they may need high dependency care.
Cough medicines and inhalers do not help.
During the incubation period, which is 7 to 10 days, an antibiotic such as azithromycin can prevent it developing.
Immunisation is the chief prevention method. The precise programme varies from country to country but always consists of a primary course of three injections at monthly intervals starting at about 2 months of age. Boosters are usually given after intervals of years.
A booster injection in mid pregnancy prevents most cases that would otherwise occur in the the first few months of life, which is the most dangerous age to get it.
Herd immunity is the strongest aspect of whooping cough prevention as it stops it spreading if there are good levels of individual immunity. Individual immunity comes from immunisation and occasional exposure to the infection which can boost immunity in those previously immunised without us being aware of it.