Whooping Cough in Babies under 6 Months


Whooping cough (pertussis) is an infection of the breathing system triggered by the virus Bordetella pertussis (or B. pertussis). It generally impacts infants younger than 6 months old who aren’t yet secured by immunizations, and kids 11 to 18 years old whose immunity has started to fade.

Whooping cough causes severe coughing spells, which can in some cases end in a “whooping” sound when the child takes in.

Before a vaccine was offered, pertussis killed about 9,000 people in the United States each year. Now, the pertussis vaccine has actually minimized the annual variety of deaths to less than 30. However in recent years, the variety of cases has begun to rise. In 2004, the variety of whooping cough cases surged previous 25,000, the highest level because the 1950s.

Whooping Cough in Babies: Signs & Symptoms

The first symptoms of whooping cough resemble those of an acute rhinitis:

  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • moderate cough
  • low-grade fever

After about 1 to 2 weeks, the dry, irritating cough develops into coughing spells. During a coughing spell, which can last for more than a minute, a child may redden or purple. At the end of a spell, the child might make the particular whooping sound when breathing in or may vomit. Between spells, the child normally feels well.

While numerous infants and younger kids with whooping cough develop the coughing fits and accompanying whoop, not all do. And sometimes babies don’t cough or whoop as older kids do. Infants may appear they’re gasping for air with a reddened face and may actually stop breathing (this is called apnea) for a few seconds during really bad spells.

Adults and teenagers may have milder or various symptoms, such as a long term cough (rather than coughing spells) or coughing without the whoop.


Pertussis is extremely contagious. The bacteria spread out from individual to you through tiny drops of fluid from an infected you’s nose or mouth. These may end up being airborne when the you sneezes, coughs, or laughs. Others then can end up being infected by inhaling the drops or getting the drops on their hands then touching their mouths or noses.

Infected individuals are most infectious during the earliest stages of the health problem for approximately about 2 weeks after the cough starts. Antibiotics reduce the duration of contagiousness to 5 days following the start of antibiotic treatment.


Whooping cough can be prevented with the pertussis vaccine, which becomes part of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) immunization.

DTaP immunizations are regularly given in 5 dosages prior to a child’s sixth birthday. For extra protection in case resistance fades, specialists advise that kids ages 11-18 get a booster shot of the brand-new mix vaccine (called Tdap), ideally when they’re 11 or 12 years old.

The Tdap vaccine resembles DTaP however with lower concentrations of diphtheria and tetanus toxoid. It likewise ought to be given to grownups who did not receive it as preteens or teenagers. The vaccine is likewise advised for all pregnant women during the 2nd half of each pregnancy, despite whether they had the vaccine previously, or when it was last given.

Getting the vaccine is specifically essential for individuals who are in close contact with infants, due to the fact that children can establish severe and possibly lethal problems from whooping cough. A grownup’s immunity to whooping cough lessens gradually, so getting immunized and securing yourself against the infection also helps safeguard your infant or child from getting it.

As is the case with all immunization schedules, there are very important exceptions and special circumstances. Your doctor will have the most present details.

Individuals who cope with or enter into close contact with somebody who has pertussis needs to get antibiotics to avoid the spread of the disease, even if they’ve already been vaccinated versus it. Young kids who have actually not received all 5 doses of the vaccine might require a booster dose if exposed to an infected relative.


The incubation period (the time in between infection and the start of symptoms) for whooping cough is usually 7 to 10 days, however can be as long as 21 days.


Pertussis normally causes prolonged symptoms– 1 to 2 weeks of common cold symptoms, followed by up to 3 months of severe coughing.

The last stage consists of another few weeks of recovery with progressive clearing of symptoms. In some children, the recovery period can last for months.

Treatment for Whooping Cough in Babies

Call the doctor if you think that your child has whooping cough. To make a diagnosis, the doctor will take a medical history, do an extensive physical exam, and may take nose and throat mucus samples to be checked in a lab. Blood tests and a chest X-ray also might be done.

Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics. Lots of experts believe that antibiotics are most reliable in reducing the length of the infection when they’re given in the first stage of the illness, before coughing spells begin. But even if antibiotics are begun later on, they’re still essential due to the fact that they can stop the spread of the pertussis infection to others. Ask your doctor whether preventive antibiotics or vaccine boosters for other member of the family are needed.

Some kids with whooping cough have to be dealt with in a health center. Babies and more youthful children are most likely to be hospitalized because they’re at higher risk for problems like pneumonia. Whooping cough can be dangerous for babies younger than 6 months, so they usually need hospital treatment.

Other potential issues consist of problem breathing, durations of apnea, requiring oxygen (particularly during a coughing spell), and dehydration.

While in the hospital, a child may require suctioning to clear the respiratory tracts. Breathing will be viewed closely, and oxygen given if needed. Intravenous (IV) fluids may be required if a child shows signs of dehydration or has problem consuming. Preventative measures will be taken to prevent the infection from infecting other patients, health center personnel, and visitors.

Home Care

If your child is being dealt with for pertussis at home, follow the schedule for providing antibiotics exactly as your doctor prescribed. Giving cough medication most likely will not assist, as even the strongest generally cannot eliminate the coughing spells of whooping cough. The cough is in fact the body’s method of trying to clear the respiratory tracts. (Due to potential side effects, cough medications are never ever recommended for children under age 6.)

During recovery, let your child rest in bed and use a cool-mist vaporizer to assist soothe inflamed lungs and breathing passages. (Be sure to follow instructions for keeping it clean and mold-free.) And keep your home free of irritants that can activate coughing spells, such as aerosol sprays; tobacco smoke; and smoke from food preparation, fireplaces, and wood-burning ranges.

Kids with whooping cough might vomit or not eat or consume much since of the coughing. So provide smaller sized, more regular meals and motivate your child to consume great deals of fluids. Watch for signs of dehydration, consisting of thirst, irritability, uneasyness, sleepiness, sunken eyes, a dry mouth and tongue, dry skin, crying without tears, and less trips to the bathroom to pee (or in babies, fewer wet diapers).

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor if you believe that your child has whooping cough or has been exposed to someone with whooping cough, even if your child has already had actually all scheduled pertussis immunizations.

This is specifically important if your child has long coughing spells and:

  • the coughing make your child’s skin or lips turn red, purple, or blue.
  • your child throws up after coughing.
  • there’s a whooping noise after the cough.
  • your child has problem breathing or seems to have short durations of not breathing (apnea).
  • your child appears very slow.

If your child has actually been identified with whooping cough and is being treated at home, get instant treatment if he or she establishes difficulty breathing or reveals signs of dehydration.


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