Whooping Cough Symptoms

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Whooping cough (also named pertussis) is a term that is used to describe the infectious disease caused by small Gram-negative bacteria named Bordetella pertussis. The term "whooping cough" is based on the characteristic noise made as the person at the end of a coughing attack that sounds like a high-pitched "whoop" as the person tries to suck in a breath. The disease is transferred from person to person by bacteria-contaminated droplets formed during a coughing spell; however, the disease may be prevented by vaccinations.

Symptoms of whooping cough vary. Early in the infection, the symptoms resemble those of a cold; mild fever, nasal congestion, sneezing, nasal discharge, and a dry cough. However, in contrast to a cold, the symptoms persist and worsen over about one to two weeks. Mucus in the airways thickens, the coughing becomes worse and may cause the person to vomit, become extremely fatigued and during the prolonged coughing spell, the person's face may become discolored (reddish or bluish) due to coughing effort and the lack of good air movement. The whooping sound occurs as the person tries to move a volume of air through partially occluded airways. Not all people with whooping cough will produce the whooping sound, but the vast majority of patients will have a prolonged (about 2 to 3 weeks, with some as long as 10 weeks) hacking cough although some infants may have a minimal cough, but some experience short periods of apnea (no breathing).

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