Whooping Cough: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Whooping Cough?

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways that leads to episodes of violent coughing. The medical term for whooping cough is pertussis. It is very contagious and most severe for babies.
Whooping cough overview

Recovery Time

  • The symptoms of whooping cough gradually start to improve, with fewer and less extreme bouts of coughing occurring.
  • Recovery time may be as short as 3 weeks but is more likely to be 3 months depending upon the severity.


Diagnosis of whooping cough is done simply by asking about symptoms and listening to the cough. Medical tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
  • A nose or throat culture and test
  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  What is Whooping Cough?
Whooping Cough or Pertussis is an acute, highly infectious bacterial infection of the nasopharynx causing severe whooping type of cough. The disease is very severe in babies less than 1yr and mostly fatal. Older children and adults will recover fully.  The whole disease process lasts about 2-3mts.

Q2.  How do I get Whooping Cough?
Whooping Cough spreads through respiratory aerosols from person to person.  It begins as a normal cough and cold which turns into characteristic Whooping type of cough which comes in bouts followed by vomiting.

Q3.  What is the treatment for Whooping Cough?
Once there is suspicion of Whooping Cough appropriate antibiotics are started immediately. Antibiotics will only help in preventing the spread of the disease.  The disease will have its own course and recovery begins 4-6wks after the onset of initial symptoms.

Q4.  How long does it take to cure?
Whooping Cough usually resolves in 2-3 months. The severity of the cough is more during the 1st month.
Q5.  How do I prevent Whooping Cough?
Whooping Cough is a vaccine preventable disease. The vaccine is given along with Diphtheria and Tetanus in the form of triple vaccine starting 6wks of age.  Adults can also get vaccinated as required by some countries as immigration policy.

Q6.  What are the complications of Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough can lead to complications like Pneumonia, encephalopathy and seizures.

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