Friday, May 18, 2012

Signs of Whooping cough in Adults and Babies (Young Children)

Pertussis or whooping cough is a kind of contagious bacterial infection that can lead to very serious health conditions for elderly people (over 60 years of old) and infants or young children (less than 1 year). In the early stage of the disease, the symptoms that occur are difficult to distinguish with the symptoms of common cold. That’s why this disease is not easy to be diagnosed at the early stage. So, what are signs of whooping cough in babies (young children) and older children /adults?

You might also like to know more about how to prevent and treat whooping cough, before continuing!

How is whooping cough transmitted?

This disease is contagious which can easily spread from person to person. Bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) that cause pertussis can spread to other individuals when an infected individual is coughing or sneezing.

Therefore, patient with this disease should cover her/his mouth when coughing/sneezing. Furthermore, patients should use a mask when they need to interact to other people for better result in eliminating the bacteria to spread.


In many cases, people with this disease can get a full recovery without any problems, particularly if it occurs in adults & older children. On the other hand, whooping cough can be very serious or even can lead to potentially life threatening if it occurs in infants/babies and elderly people.

The disease can take about 6-8 weeks on average, or sometimes it may be longer. Once you get whooping cough, you may still have a chance of experiencing it for the second time or even more. Therefore, once recovered -- patients are usually considered to get the right fully vaccination!

Additionally, antibiotics are one of common choices to treat pertussis, especially can work most effectively in treating this disease at early stage.

Whooping cough in older children and adults

Several years ago, the disease is pretty common in childhood. But since the vaccine discovered, today it may be more common in older children (over 11 of the age) and adults.

According to CDC, reported cases of this disease vary for every year and more likely to reach the peak level for every 5-3 years. The number of pertussis cases increase since 1980s. In 2010, there were about 27,550 cases of whooping cough and 27 deaths were reported in the U.S.

Fortunately, the whooping-cough symptoms and how long does it take are relatively milder and faster in older children or adults. But both issues are usually related whether patients had the appropriately vaccines & how long ago these vaccines were!

Whooping cough in babies /infants

As mentioned before, this disease can be so dangerous if it occurs in babies (younger than the age of 1 year). This age group is more susceptible to also experience other serious complications, such as; convulsions, problems associated with the brain (mostly due to lack of O2), and pneumonia.

According to CDC -- whooping cough caused 27 deaths reported in 2010, and most of them were infants or younger children (less than 1 year). Therefore if your baby has some symptoms of this disease, don’t choose ‘watchful waiting’ -- you need to see your doctor immediately!

Whooping cough symptoms (signs)

How long the signs or symptoms will last varies from person to person. Generally (as written before), they can last for about 8-6 weeks or may be longer! For younger children, the symptoms usually will last longer and followed with 3 stages of whooping cough symptoms. And for adults or older children, they are more likely to don’t experience the same stages.

#Stage I

This is the early stage of whooping cough, and usually we can be difficult to distinguish it from common cold. Because the signs that occur are more likely to be similar as the common symptoms of cold -- and once you get the infection, you can begin spread your infection to others.
  1. Patient usually experience mild cough, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, or may also be followed with fever (in mild level).
  2. These signs usually will last for several days or a couple of weeks.
#Stage II

In the stage the cold signs usually get preferable, but then other whooping cough symptoms (like cough) get worse which usually will last about 2-4 weeks or more.
  1. The cough symptoms usually begin from hacking cough, dry & mild -- and then become an uncontrollable severe cough.
  2. Sometimes, the cough can make patient be difficult to take a breath because he/she may cough so long. This cough is usually followed by a whooping noise when patient taking a breath of air. This noise is one of clearly pertussis signs, and the main reason why the disease is called as ‘whooping cough’!
  3. Patient may also experience vomiting after a coughing fit.
#Stage III
  1. Patient may begin experience off/on coughing fit which can last several weeks. It may begin to be louder than before and usually may flare up if patient experience cold or another similar illness.
  2. In the beginning and end of this stage, patient usually gets stronger & better. For infected individuals who haven’t received the fully vaccine, this stage may occur longer.
Note; don’t get directly to your conclusion about the symptoms that you have or occur in your children. If you in doubt, see & talk with your doctor immediately to get more advices and detailed information!
Reference: WebMD
Image credit to ‘Getty Images /Carlos Alvarez’ for illustration