Whooping cough


Carola Felchner

Carola Felchner is a freelance author at lifelikeinc.com and a certified exercise and nutritionist. She worked at various trade magazines and online portals before becoming self-employed in 2015 as a journalist. Before her traineeship, she studied translating and interpreting in Kempten and Munich.

More about the lifelikeinc.com expertswhooping cough (Pertussis) is an acute upper respiratory tract infection. Typical symptoms are spasmodic coughing fits and a gasping breath during the subsequent breath. Whooping cough can affect children and adults alike, but manifests itself slightly differently. Read here how contagious pertussis is, how it is treated and why it often goes unnoticed by adults.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in medical reports or on incapacity certificates. A37ArtikelübersichtKeuchhusten

  • symptoms
  • Risk of infection and incubation period
  • Whooping cough in adults
  • Whooping cough & pregnancy
  • causes
  • investigations
  • treatment
  • vaccination
  • Course and prognosis

Brief description: whooping cough

  • What is whooping cough exactly? A very contagious, bacterial upper respiratory tract infection.
  • symptoms: barking, staccato cough with wheezing after the attacks
  • Infection: via droplet infection when sneezing, coughing, talking or kissing
  • Treatment: Antibiotics, inhale, drink well, spare; Risk patients such as infants should be treated in hospital.
  • Vaccination: from the second month of life; must be refreshed after ten to 20 years at the latest
  • Forecast: Whooping cough may persist for several weeks or months, but usually heals completely. Dangerous complications are possible especially in small children.
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Whooping cough - symptoms

Whooping cough (medically: pertussis) typically occurs in three phases in children:

If you have been infected, it is very likely that you do not notice anything about whooping cough. The symptoms are in the so-called cold-like phase still unspecific and resemble - hence the name - those of a cold. Only later do you notice typical whooping cough symptoms. Classically, pertussis infection occurs in three stages, each accompanied by other symptoms.

1. cold phase (Catarrhal stage): It lasts one to two weeks. At this first stage, the whooping cough symptoms are still non-specific. They are therefore rarely interpreted correctly. Most of the complaints are considered a common cold. Whooping cough symptoms of the first stage are:

  • to cough
  • Sneeze
  • Sore throat
  • runny nose

2. Seizure stage (Convulsive stage): This stage lasts up to six weeks. It shows here the classic signs of whooping cough: spasmodic coughing fits to breathlessness (hence the Voksmund also speaks of "stick cough"). The cough attacks occur especially at night. After a seizure, the patients breathe in with a wheezing sound. It is caused by a cramping of the larynx.

A coughing attack often lasts for minutes and can be repeated up to 50 times a day. It takes place staccato-like and is therefore also called Staccato cough designated. He is often accompanied by vomiting. At least, however, many patients strangle viscous phlegm (expectoration).

At this stage of the disease, most patients also have no appetite and little or no sleep at all. Fever, on the other hand, rarely occurs.

3. Recovery stage (Stadium decrementi): This last phase of the disease lasts up to ten weeks. During this time, the coughing fits are gradually weakening, and the patients soon feel fitter again.

  • Whooping cough: "Get vaccinated!"

    Three questions

    Michael Conder,
    Specialist in internal and general medicine
  • 1

    How do I distinguish irritation from whooping cough?

    Michael Conder

    Whooping cough lasts much longer than a banal irritating cough - colloquially, he is also called a 100-day cough. The type of cough does not differ at first. Only after about three weeks does the second stage of whooping cough appear. Then spasmodic coughing fits are often typical with wheezing "catching the breath" after the coughing fit. This stage lasts about six weeks. The disease then clears out in the third stage.

  • 2

    Can I do something for a faster recovery?

    Michael Conder

    In the early stage of the disease, the infection is treated with antibiotics. This prevents complications and also that others get infected. If whooping cough is discovered too late, only the symptoms are treated. Drink a lot, such as bronchial tea. Juicy fruit can calm down after a seizure. Eat light meals if you suffer from gagging. And create cool and damp room air. Also important: rest and physical protection.

  • 3

    If I'm vaccinated, can I still get whooping cough?

    Michael Conder

    Yes, you can still get sick, but this is much less the case. If adults or children without vaccine come into contact with the pathogens, they get 80 percent of it. Pertussis is therefore very contagious - and especially dangerous for infants. Emergency treatment may be needed to prevent respiratory arrest. So: get vaccinated!

  • Michael Conder,
    Specialist in internal and general medicine

    Dr. Conder runs his private practice in Ludwigshafen, he is also a lecturer in general medicine at the University of Heidelberg.

Whooping cough in baby and toddler

The younger a child, the more dangerous is whooping cough. In the first year of life, children have not yet established complete vaccination coverage. Therefore, whooping cough is often severe at this age. In addition, babies and toddlers can not sit up to cough better.

Another difficulty: infants often show no typical symptoms. Pertussis attacks are often not very strong and not staccato-like. Often you only notice a beeping or a flushed face. In the foreground there are often breathing pauses (apneas): the little ones stop breathing for a second. Due to the shortness of breath, the skin may partially discolor bluish (cyanosis).

Other possible complications include pneumonia, otitis and encephalitis with seizures). Unpopulated infants under six months of age, premature babies and babies of very young mothers are particularly susceptible to a severe whooping cough disease.

Whooping cough: Symptoms of comorbidities

The typical whooping cough symptoms may be accompanied by further complaints when patients develop concomitant disease. This happens in about a quarter of all patients. The reason is usually that the whooping cough is diagnosed and treated late. The bacteria have then often spread in the body. Possible comorbidities and secondary symptoms of whooping cough are:

  • Middle ear and pneumonia: They arise when the whooping cough bacteria migrate up the auditory canal or down into the lung tissue.
  • Rib fracture and inguinal hernia: They are caused by particularly strong coughing fits. Often, these fractures are recognized much later, when, for example, severe pain during exercise.
  • heavy weight loss: This is especially true in children. Whooping cough is often associated with lack of appetite.
  • incontinence: It is primarily a problem of children and the elderly. Every time you cough, a lot of pressure builds up in your body. Then, uncontrollably, some urine may go off. But incontinence is not a permanent problem. It disappears as soon as the whooping cough symptoms disappear.