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Homepage | Ascension

Compassionate care starts with understanding what makes you, you.

ABOUT ASCENSION

Coming together to provide personalized, compassionate care

You deserve the best care possible. Working together as Ascension, we can give you the quality care you’ve come to expect — and much more. With proven, advanced resources and a wide range of specialists, our connected nationwide network of caregivers helps make sure you’re getting the care that's right for you.

OUR LOCATIONS

With locations across more than 20 states, odds are you’re never far from personalized, compassionate care

See all Ascension Sites of Care
doctor with patient

Great care for your everyday life starts with more than an everyday doctor

Our primary care doctors take time to understand all aspects of you and your life. That’s what helps us provide the personalized, compassionate care you deserve.

LEARN ABOUT PRIMARY CARE
Our Patients

The staff was amazing. They helped me and my family with whatever we needed.

I am referring to the nurses, doctors, and room service; everyone.

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Patient Story

Flight for Life

“Three percent of us actually survive the type of heart attack I had. I should not be here today. I was so, so lucky.”

Patient Story

A woman sits at the kitchen table, ready to eat with her family. This woman’s name is Sandy, and recently her family got just a little bit bigger.

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Pertussis

Definition

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. The coughing can make it hard to breathe. A deep "whooping" sound is often heard when the person tries to take a breath.

Alternative Names

Whooping cough

Causes

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is an upper respiratory infection. It is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It is a serious disease that can affect people of any age and cause permanent disability in infants, and even death.

When an infected person sneezes or coughs, tiny droplets containing the bacteria move through the air. The disease is easily spread from person to person.

The infection often lasts 6 weeks, but it can last as long as 10 weeks.

Symptoms

Initial symptoms are similar to the common cold. In most cases, they develop about a week after exposure to the bacteria.

Severe episodes of coughing start about 10 to 12 days later. In infants and young children, the coughing sometimes ends with a "whoop" noise. The sound is produced when the person tries to take a breath. The whoop noise is rare in infants under 6 months of age and in older children or adults.

Coughing spells may lead to vomiting or a short loss of consciousness. Pertussis should always be considered when vomiting occurs with coughing. In infants, choking spells and long pauses in breathing are common.

Other pertussis symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

The initial diagnosis is most often based on the symptoms. However, when the symptoms are not obvious, pertussis may be hard to diagnose. In very young infants, the symptoms may be caused by pneumonia instead.

To know for sure, the health care provider may take a sample of mucus from the nasal secretions. The sample is sent to a lab and tested for pertussis. While this can offer an accurate diagnosis, the test takes some time. Most of the time, treatment is started before the results are ready.

Some people may have a complete blood count that shows large numbers of lymphocytes.

Treatment

If started early enough, antibiotics such as erythromycin can make the symptoms go away more quickly. Unfortunately, most people are diagnosed too late, when antibiotics aren't very effective. However, the medicines can help reduce the person's ability to spread the disease to others.

Infants younger than 18 months need constant supervision because their breathing may temporarily stop during coughing spells. Infants with severe cases should be hospitalized.

An oxygen tent with high humidity may be used.

Fluids may be given through a vein if coughing spells are severe enough to prevent the person from drinking enough fluids.

Sedatives (medicines to make you sleepy) may be prescribed for young children.

Cough mixtures, expectorants, and suppressants are most often not helpful. These medicines should NOT be used.

Outlook (Prognosis)

In older children, the outlook is most often very good. Infants have the highest risk for death, and need careful monitoring.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you or your child develops symptoms of pertussis.

Call 911 or get to an emergency room if the person has any of the following symptoms:

Prevention

DTaP vaccination, one of the recommended childhood immunizations, protects children against pertussis infection. DTaP vaccine can be safely given to infants. Five DTaP vaccines are recommended. They are most often given to children at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years.

The TdaP vaccine should be given at age 11 or 12.

During a pertussis outbreak, unimmunized children under age 7 should not attend school or public gatherings. They should also be isolated from anyone known or suspected to be infected. This should last until 14 days after the last reported case.

It is also recommended that adults age 19 and older receive 1 dose of the TdaP vaccine against pertussis.

TdaP is especially important for health care professionals and anyone having close contact with a baby younger than 12 months old.

Pregnant women should get a dose of TdaP during every pregnancy between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, to protect the newborn from pertussis.

References

Braman SS. Postinfectious cough: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006;129(1):138S-146S. PMID: 16428703 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16428703.

Kim DK, Bridges CB, Harriman KH; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP); ACIP Adult Immunization Work Group. Advisory committee on immunization practices recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years or older -- United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015; 6;64(4):91-92. PMID:25654609 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25654609.

Long SS. Pertussis (Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis). In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW III, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 197.

Strikas RA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP); ACIP Child/Adolescent Immunization Work Group. Advisory committee on immunization practices recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years -- United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015; 6;64(4):93-94. PMID: 25654610 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25654610.

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine information statement: Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). Available at: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/tdap.pdf. Accessed August 7, 2015.


Review Date: 7/10/2015
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Homepage | Ascension

Compassionate care starts with understanding what makes you, you.

ABOUT ASCENSION

Coming together to provide personalized, compassionate care

You deserve the best care possible. Working together as Ascension, we can give you the quality care you’ve come to expect — and much more. With proven, advanced resources and a wide range of specialists, our connected nationwide network of caregivers helps make sure you’re getting the care that's right for you.

OUR LOCATIONS

With locations across more than 20 states, odds are you’re never far from personalized, compassionate care

See all Ascension Sites of Care
doctor with patient

Great care for your everyday life starts with more than an everyday doctor

Our primary care doctors take time to understand all aspects of you and your life. That’s what helps us provide the personalized, compassionate care you deserve.

LEARN ABOUT PRIMARY CARE
Our Patients

The staff was amazing. They helped me and my family with whatever we needed.

I am referring to the nurses, doctors, and room service; everyone.

Classes and Events

Find educational classes, special community events and support groups near you.

Find a Class or Event
Patient Story

Flight for Life

“Three percent of us actually survive the type of heart attack I had. I should not be here today. I was so, so lucky.”

Patient Story

A woman sits at the kitchen table, ready to eat with her family. This woman’s name is Sandy, and recently her family got just a little bit bigger.

Go to Story