AfterOurs Clinics - Colorado
AfterOurs Clinics - Colorado

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Close Up Of Woman Suffering With Cough
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a very contagious respiratory tract infection. It is a bacterial infection that can lead to severe coughing and several complications if it remains untreated.

What is Whooping cough?

Whooping cough is a respiratory illness also known as pertussis, caused by the bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis. This causes a strong and persistent cough that makes it hard for the patient to breathe. As such, after the coughing fit, the patient tends to take deep breaths with a whooping sound, hence the name whooping cough.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease with 3 stages:

  • Catarrhal (mild symptoms)
  • Paroxysmal (episodes of cough fits with whooping sounds while breathing)
  • Convalescent (bouts of coughing are reduced with improved symptoms)

Risk Factors

Transmission occurs by inhaling the air droplets of a person infected with the gram-negative bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Transmission is most likely during the catarrhal stages and the initial 2 to 3 weeks of paroxysmal stages of whooping cough.

Babies and young children who have not had the pertussis vaccination are most likely get whooping cough, and to have serious complications from whooping cough.


Symptoms can be divided into early and later stages.

Early symptoms persist from 1 to 2 weeks after getting infected. These include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Runny nose
  • Mild, occasional cough
  • Generally not feeling good

Later symptoms kick in after about two weeks. These include:

  • Violent coughs followed by deep inhalation of breaths with a whooping sound
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting during or after the coughing fits
  • Exhaustion and pain after the coughing fits

In whooping cough, the cough persists until there is no more air in the lung to exhale, and the patient takes forced deep breaths with a whooping sound. The coughing worsens with time and progresses if there is no timely intervention.


Complications can occur when whooping cough is not properly treated. Extreme coughing exhausts the individual and can disturb quality of life. Patients may experience pain after coughing fits.

Some more severe complications include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Brain damage and bleeding disorders of the brain
  • Convulsions


Antibiotics are the first-line treatment for whooping cough. This shortens the period of the disease by directly interfering with the bacteria that cause the disease. Proper treatment also reduces coughing and other symptoms, hence hampering the transmission of the disease to other healthy individuals. Antibiotics work well when taken immediately, and their effect will be reduced if taken at later stages.

Many home remedies to alleviate cough may also being used. Over-the-counter cough medicines and cough depressants may be effective in treating whooping cough. A medical provider can provide further advice on effective symptomatic treatment.


Whooping cough is a contagious disease and can be prevented through basic measures. The DTaP vaccine for infants and children can help protect them from this disease. The vaccination schedule is to get a dose at ages two, four, and six months. A fourth dose is given between 15 and 18 months and a fifth dose is given between ages four to six.

Adults and older children need to get a Tdap vaccine, and a booster shot every ten years.

Contact us

In case of urgent medical care assistance, AfterOurs Urgent Care offers immediate telemedicine services, where medical providers are available to offer assistance. Anyone who experiences signs and symptoms requiring urgent medical attention can simply book their appointment with AfterOurs Urgent Care to directly talk to an expert. If your medical issue is not appropriate for telemedicine, we will let you know and refer you to an in-person facility.

When to visit a doctor:

If you have whooping cough, you should see a medical provider in order to avoid possible serious complications.

Treatment for whooping cough is available at AfterOurs Urgent Care.