What is Whooping Cough: Sound, Signs, Vaccine & Treatment

Whooping cough – (pertussis) is an acute infectious disease accompanied by inflammation in the upper respiratory tracts and paroxysmal spasmodic cough. Among the most frequently infected are unvaccinated children under the age of 5. But infants are even more frequently affected by such a disease. The infection proceeds less severe in older age. Whooping cough is caused by a specific bacterium called Bordetella pertussis. The microbe is transmitted by airborne droplets (coughing, sneezing, talking) during close contact with the sick person. The disease is highly contagious. However, the contact way of transmitting (for example, through the toy) is not possible because the bacteria die quickly in the environment.

The immunity for the disease (after the illness) turns to be very stable and remains for the rest of the life. The recurrent disease may occur when the patient is elder. However, as a rule, doctors take whooping cough for a simple cold as it is not very severe in the proceeding. Pertussis bacterium produces specific toxins that irritate the respiratory tract mucosa. As a result diaphragm and a bronchi muscles spasm are developed and the so-called spasmodic cough takes place.

The cough reflex is gradually fixed in the respiratory center of the medulla oblongata (part of the brain), which leads to increased and more frequent fits of coughing. The incubation period (since infected till first symptoms appear) usually lasts from one up to two weeks. The disease begins gradually. The body temperature slightly raises and a runny nose accompanied by dry cough may be noted.


During this phase of the disease, parents often think that it is “a bit of a cold” and the child continues to go to school or kindergarten, infecting others. The cough gradually increases in intensity and duration and becomes spasmodic. Whooping cough is so specific that a doctor needs to hear only once to make the correct diagnosis.

Whooping Cough Sound

The video may be hard to watch, but thanks to the parents who have courageously shared the content – the parents may easily determine whether their baby has whooping cough or a common cold.

During spasmodic fit after the wheezing inhaling, a series of short convulsive coughs following each other non-stop during one exhalation happens. Sometimes these attacks are accompanied by vomiting, face turning red or blue, expectoration. From 20 up to 30 (or even more) attacks, a day may happen depending on the severity of the disease. The patient’s face becomes puffy, the skin sometimes appears hemorrhage, conjunctivitis can develop, and the bridle of the tongue may get sore. Attacks of whooping cough can take place at any time, but most frequently – at night and in the morning.

As a rule other than coughing nothing else reveals that the child is ill. The body temperature remains normal. Increased body temperature during a spasmodic cough may be caused by complications. The period of spasmodic cough lasts for about 3-4 weeks or more, the number of seizures gradually decreases and they become less intense.

However, a small cough, weakness, irritability, and increased excitability of the child can still be observed for the next few months. The most common complication of pertussis – is pneumonia, which is caused by other microbes – staphylococci and streptococci. For infants, whooping cough is dangerous because of breath-seizing during attacks, which vary in duration from a couple of seconds up to a couple of minutes. Due to the lack of oxygen skeletal muscle cramps, encephalopathy and other complications may develop.

Bronchitis, pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura covering the lungs), purulent otitis, false croup can also be attributed to the complications of whooping cough. Occasionally there are severe complications caused by severe cough shock (cerebral hemorrhage, rupture of eardrums, pneumothorax, etc.).

Diagnosis of Whooping Cough


The diagnosis of pertussis is exposed in case of the presence of the typical cough. In order to confirm the diagnosis sputum and mucus taken from the pharyngeal mucosa may be analyzed. Treatment is usually carried out at home. Hospitalization rarely takes place, mainly when young children or patients with the severe form of the disease are hospitalized.

The important role in the curing of the disease is played by fresh, moist air in the patient’s room (frequent airing of the room), split meals (frequent small meals), reduction of external stimuli that may cause the cough (light and noise). If the body temperature is normal the walks on fresh air are very helpful (if the temperature outside is not lower than -10 C. The doctor usually prescribes antibiotics, antihistamines, antitussives, and sometimes neuroleptics to relieve a spasmodic cough.


The most effective measure of fighting whooping cough is the injection of the DTP vaccine, listed in the mandatory vaccine schedule. In case of identifying the infected child a 2 weeks quarantine for children younger than 7 years old, who are not vaccinated or have not been ill with whooping cough is prescribed.


«Folk» Methods of Treatment

Traditional medicine recommends treating whooping cough with the following methods:

  • Drink boiled milk with crushed cloves of garlic
  • Drink a decoction of figs with milk
  • Mixing the honey and butter in a ratio of 1:1, take a teaspoon several times a day
  • Drink plantain leaves tea
  • Rubbing the chest with a mass of crushed garlic with butter


If the bad expectoration is observed the light massage of the upper chest and back may be helpful. It is necessary to carefully rub 1-2 drops of pine oil, applying the reception of light tapping with your fingers, palms. Instead of pine oil radish or garlic juices may be used. During the massage, the child can be put back into your lap with his belly down to his head hung a little, it contributes to a better discharge of phlegm.

Treatment Recipes

  • Wash and peel black radish of medium size. Slightly warm up 1-2 teaspoons of honey, mix it with radish and this mush should be put in a cloth bag. Should be placed on the neck as a compress. It should be covered with something warm – a scarf or a heating pad. The procedure should last 20-40 minutes. After removing the compress gently rub the skin with vegetable oil. The procedure is better to be performed before before the bed time
  • Grate the cabbage and beets. Add a tablespoon of 6% vinegar per cup of the mass. Mix it up well. It should be kept in a dark place for at least two hours. Then squeeze the juice and rinse the throat with it. The juice may be also be consumed – a teaspoon 3 times a day mixing it with water in proportion 1:1. This will help to reduce the throat inflammation