What Is Whooping Cough?

What Is Whooping Cough?

The disease known as whooping cough is one of the more startling illnesses parents have to confront when this strikes an infant in the family. Half the cases of whooping cough in young children end up in the hospital for acute care in part because of its startling manifestation of a loud, barking cough, but because the disease can cause apnea, which is an unnatural pause in breathing. Whooping cough, medically known as pertussis, is a bacterial disease that attacks the respiratory system. The cause of the illness is Bordetella pertussis bacteria, which is not often fatal, but it can be.


In that regard, internal medicine doctors in San Diego offer two separate vaccines available to reduce the risk of whooping cough. Persons younger than seven (7), including babies, are given the Diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines, while adults are given a different variety of the same agents.




Pertussis, which is only found in humans, is considered very contagious. The bacteria causing whooping cough is present in moisture that accompanies coughing or sneezing. 

Those in closer quarters with someone infected are at risk of catching the illness, which puts parents in a very precarious position. Parents who need to care for and nurture sick babies will be in close contact with the infection. Older siblings are also at risk, as well as hospital staff, babysitters, and others.

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With the potential escalation of whooping cough that could be fatal, whooping cough must be detected and treated early. Make an appointment with Pacific Medical as soon as you suspect your child has any respiratory illness, including whooping cough.


When you get to the appointment, your physician will first want to know if you have been in contact with anyone who has whooping cough. The patient’s history will be discussed. Doctors will then do a physical examination that involves listening to hearty and lungs, taking temperature, and blood pressure.


After the physical exam, doctors frequently recommend a blood test. A mucus sample will also be sent to the lab.




The most common approach to treating whooping cough includes a round of antibiotics. This should begin as soon as possible. Early treatment also helps contain the disease, reducing the symptoms can help reduce the spread of the illness.

Your doctor could prescribe one of several antibiotics. You should discuss the ramifications of each choice to help make an informed decision.

Treatment at home includes environmental changes including providing a cool mist in the room to assist in breathing. On the other hand, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns parents not to give children cough syrup, which will not help and can include side effects for younger children.


Here at Pacific Medical Care, the San Diego internal medicine doctors will advise you on the best practices available for your child. Among other recommendations, your child should also drink plenty of fluids and eat small meals at regular intervals throughout the day. This allows the child to gain strength with a reduced chance of vomiting. Vomiting a big meal gives your child a greater chance of expelling nutrients needed to regain strength.




Because a cool mist can reduce or stop the coughing, one of the characteristics of whooping cough in the winter is to decide to rush a coughing infant to the hospital. Once the infant gets outside, often on the way to the car, the coughing subsides. The parents then turn around and go back inside believing the worst is over. It is advised, however, that you continue to the hospital despite the less conspicuous symptoms. The cold air has not cured the illness, it has only depressed the need to cough.

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