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Whooping Cough, Cough, Cough

Young girl coughing

What is whooping cough?

 Whooping cough or “Pertussis” is a highly contagious bacterial infection, causing a cough that lasts up to three months. It is sometimes called “the 100-day cough”. Whooping cough is common and I see many cases every year. Whooping cough can be life threatening for infants. In adults and older children it starts with the symptoms of a common cold and progresses to a severe cough. Coughing fits can end with dry retching or vomiting and a gasping noise or “whoop” when catching your breath, after which the illness is named.

What is the treatment for whooping cough?

There is no cure for whooping cough. Antibiotics given early may reduce the symptoms slightly but are mainly used to prevent spread to others.

How is whooping cough diagnosed?

The diagnosis is confirmed with a nasal swab if you have had symptoms for less than three weeks or a blood test thereafter.

Prevention is the best cure

Sufferers are infectious for the first three weeks of the illness or until they have had five days of antibiotics. They should remain isolated at home until after this period.

Should I be vaccinated against whooping cough?

Unlike most illnesses, previous infection with whooping cough does not protect you from contracting it in the future.
Children are routinely vaccinated for whooping cough from the age of two months with the last routine dose during high school. The government recommends travellers and adults over 65 years receive booster doses if it has been more than 10 years since their last vaccination. Due to the higher risk to infants, pregnant women, new fathers and anyone in close, regular contact with newborns should also receive booster doses. Having a cough for three months is such a burden that I recommend all my patients receive a booster vaccination every 10 years throughout their lives.

Can I get whooping cough if I’m vaccinated?

Yes, you can still contract whooping cough if you have been vaccinated but it tends to be much milder. This is the most common type of whooping cough infection seen in our community and is often more difficult to diagnose because of the lack of classic symptoms.

It is worth noting if you contract whooping cough but have been vaccinated you are still contagious.
 

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