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Pertussis: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Prevention, Complications, Diagnosis And Treatment

Jun 26, 2023

Pertussis: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Prevention, Complications, Diagnosis And Treatment

The respiratory disease pertussis, also referred to as whooping cough, is an extremely contagious condition. It can often be identified by a rough hacking cough followed by a high-pitched breath intake that sounds like a "whoop."

Whooping cough was once thought to be a sickness that only affected children before the vaccination was developed. The majority of people affected by whooping cough nowadays are teenagers, elderly people whose immune systems have worn down, and tiny children who are too young to have had the full course of immunizations.

Whooping cough deaths, however rare, typically involve young children. Everyone who will come in contact with an infant, including pregnant women, must receive the whooping cough vaccine.

Read this blog further to get a quick overview of this important topic for MEDICINE  to ace your NEET PG exam preparation.

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Symptoms of Pertussis

The first signs and symptoms of whooping cough usually show seven to ten days after infection, however, they can occasionally take longer. They typically start out mild and resemble an ordinary cold:

  • Clogged nose
  • Red, tearing eyes
  • Fever
  • Cough

After a week or two, signs and symptoms start to deteriorate. Excessive coughing is caused by the buildup of thick mucus in your airways. Strong coughing episodes that last a long time may:

  • Cause a face to turn crimson or blue induce vomiting produce extreme exhaustion
  • Finish by inhaling quickly and loudly with a "whoop" sound.
  • However, a lot of people never learn the distinctive whoop. A persistent hacking cough might occasionally be the only sign that a kid or adult has whooping cough. Children may not cough at all, but they may have respiratory problems.

Causes of Pertussis

Bordetella pertussis is a type of bacteria that causes whooping cough. Tiny germ-filled droplets are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and anyone close can breathe them into their lungs.

Risk Factors of Pertussis

Your childhood whooping cough vaccination eventually loses its effectiveness. As a result, the majority of adults and teenagers are vulnerable to the virus during an outbreak, which still happens frequently.

The risk of serious problems and death is higher among infants younger than 12 months who are unvaccinated or who haven't received all of the necessary vaccinations.

Complications of Pertussis

Adults and teenagers frequently recover completely from whooping cough. When problems do occur, laborious coughing is frequently the cause, such as:

  • Ribs that have cracks or bruising
  • Hernias internal
  • Broken blood vessels may be present on your skin or in the whites of your eyes.
  • Infants The effects of whooping cough are more severe in newborns, especially those under six months old.

In neonates, particularly those under 6 months old, whooping cough consequences can be more severe and include:

  • Dehydration or weight loss brought on by trouble eating as a result of pneumonia
  • Seizures brain damage
  • Babies and toddlers are more likely to need hospital care because they are more likely to develop whooping cough issues. difficulties can arise for newborns younger than six months.

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Prevention of Pertussis

The best method of preventing whooping cough is the pertussis vaccine, which doctors typically offer along with doses against diphtheria and tetanus. Beginning vaccines in early childhood is advised by doctors.

The vaccine, which has five doses, is often given to kids between the ages of:

  • 24 weeks equals a year and 60 days.
  • 20 to 15 months
  • 4-6-year-old: Vaccine side effects

The adverse effects of the vaccine can include a fever, agitation, headache, fatigue, or soreness where the injection was done. These side effects are frequently minimal.

  • Booster injections for adolescents. In order to maintain immunity from the pertussis vaccine, doctors advise obtaining a booster shot for pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus at age 11.
  • Adults. The tetanus and diphtheria vaccination, which is administered every 10 years, has some strains that also protect against whooping cough (pertussis). Additionally, this vaccination will reduce your risk of infecting small infants with whooping cough.
  • Pregnant women. Health authorities now recommend giving the pertussis vaccine to expecting women between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. In the first several months of life, the baby might benefit from some protection from this.

Diagnosis of Pertussis

Early on, it can be challenging to distinguish whooping cough from other common respiratory ailments such as a cold, the flu, or bronchitis because the signs and symptoms are similar.

By inquiring about symptoms and listening to the cough, clinicians are occasionally able to identify whooping cough. The diagnosis could require medical testing to be confirmed. These tests could be:

  • A test and culture for the nose or throat. The nasopharynx, or junction of the nose and throat, is where your doctor collects a swab or suction sample. After that, the sample is examined for signs of whooping cough germs.
  • A blood test. White blood cells assist the body in battling illnesses like whooping cough, thus a blood sample may be taken and sent to a lab to evaluate your white blood cell count. An infection or inflammation is often indicated by a high white blood cell count. This test is not specific for whooping cough; it is generic.
  • Chest X-ray. When pneumonia accompanies whooping cough and other respiratory diseases, your doctor may prescribe an X-ray to look for inflammation or fluid in the lungs.

Treatment of Pertussis

Because whooping cough is more harmful to infants, they are frequently treated in hospitals. Intravenous fluids may be required if your child has trouble swallowing food or liquids. Additionally, your child will be kept apart from other people to stop the infection from spreading.

Treatment for adolescents and adults can typically be handled at home.


The whooping cough-causing bacteria is eradicated by antibiotics, hastening the healing process. Family members who have been exposed may be given preventative antibiotics.

Unfortunately, there aren't many options available to stop the cough. For instance, over-the-counter cough medications are avoided since they have little impact on whooping cough.

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