Pertussis/Whooping cough Treatment, Drugs, Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Pertussis or whooping cough is a severe bacterial infection characterised by symptoms which mimic the common cold. What is different about whooping cough’s symptoms is the prolonged coughing events which accompany it – with the patient typically gasping due to the severity. Pertussis or whooping cough may be prevented with vaccination, though it may be treated with antibiotics.


Pertussis (whooping cough) Drugs

  • Erythromycin
  • Azithromycin
  • Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole


Pertussis (whooping cough) Symptoms

Symptoms of whooping cough depend on the age of the patient and the severity which the patient finds themselves. Notwithstanding this, there are numerous hallmark symptoms that have come to typify this condition, such as:

  • Fits of coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever

By far the most common and characteristic symptom of whooping cough is uncontrollable fits of coughing. This leads to the typical ‘whooping’ or gasping sound as the patient struggles to find breath. Also accompanying the coughing are flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, low-grade fever and bodily discomfort. Bouts of coughing may be triggered by yawning, laughing or eating, amongst other triggers.


Pertussis (whooping cough) Causes

Pertussis/whooping cough is caused by a bacterial infection. The cause may be determined by a serological sample of a nasopharyngeal swab. The direct cause of the infection is through two means:

  • Unvaccinated children
  • Presence of Bordetella pertussis
  • Airborne Droplets

B. pertussis is the bacterial organism that causes pertussis or whooping cough. This is a bacteria that affects approximately 16 million people per year, chiefly targeting those children who are unvaccinated against the infection. The bacteria is spread through close contact with infected people, particularly through the spread of respiratory droplets.


Pertussis (whooping cough) Diagnosis

Whooping cough is diagnosed through multiple means, many of which can be found listed and described below. These diagnostic options include, but are not limited to:

  • Presence of ‘whooping’ sound
  • Prolonged fits of seizure
  • Complete blood count

Patients suspected of having whooping cough will exhibit a whooping-type sound. This is a high-pitched gasp which is produced when much of the available air is extracted from the lungs. The patient, or their parents, may also describe prolonged fits of seizure along with flu-like symptoms. A doctor may order a complete blood count and sample in order to determine the causative organism and the body’s reaction to it.


Pertussis (whooping cough) Treatment

Patients with whooping cough should contact their doctor immediately, as effective treatment and management options are available. The infection is also highly contagious for other people. Treatment options include:

  • Antibiotic use
  • Vaccination
  • Maintenance Therapy

First-line prevention of whooping cough is with vaccination, which should be administered to every child. Children are, by far, the largest contingent who contract pertussis, and also the same group liable for complications. Antibiotics – such as erythromycin – may be used, which are usually taken for up to two weeks. Maintenance therapy, such as treating common cold-type symptoms, is also used in treatment in order to make the patient more comfortable.