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Is Whooping Cough Contagious?

Is Whooping Cough Contagious?

Whooping cough or pertussis is a highly contagious disease. Knowing about its incubation and contagion period, and preventive measures will be helpful to you.
Madhura Pandit
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection that causes severe, distinct, and uncontrollable cough. This condition is usually observed in children, but, adults are also affected by it. It is caused by bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
Whooping cough is highly contagious. The infection is typically contagious for about 1-3 weeks.
Contagious Period for Whooping Cough
It is spread due to direct contact with the nasal or throat secretions of the person suffering from it. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the disease-causing bacteria are released in the air. If a healthy person breathes in this air, he contracts the infection.
The incubation period (the time frame between contracting infection and showing symptoms) for whooping cough is typically 7-10 days. The incubation period varies from one person to the other. In rare cases, it may even take around 21 days.
The contagious period of this infection also tends to vary. The infection is highly contagious for up to 2-3 weeks from the onset of symptoms. It is less communicable after commencing treatment.
Symptoms
The most prominent symptom is violent cough with a peculiar sound, like 'whoop', when the person breathes. The initial symptoms are similar to common cold, like runny nose, mild cough, etc. After the initial days, the mild cough turns into spells of coughing. Sometimes, if the cough lasts longer, the person may even turn red or purple. It is also observed that the cough worsens at night.
Sometimes, irregularities in breathing like slowed or stopped breathing are also observed. There may even be times when the person is unable to breathe properly. Sometimes, choking can also be experienced due to accumulation of mucus in the throat and chest.
Other symptoms:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
In babies, especially younger than 6 months of age, severe symptoms like dehydration, pneumonia, brain damage, seizures, etc., are seen. The symptoms of whooping cough are milder in adults as compared to children.
Treatment
It is essential to get the infection treated immediately so as to stop it from being contagious. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted if a child or adult shows any of the aforementioned symptoms. Whooping cough is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms observed, medical history of the patient, mucus, saliva, or blood tests, etc.
Antibiotics are prescribed for treating whooping cough. Taking antibiotics in the early stages also prevents the spread of disease to a great extent. It is recommended to get whooping cough treated as early as possible, else it can have deadly complications. In rare cases, death due to breathing difficulty is also possible.
Prevention
Minimizing the contact with the affected person is one of the most effective ways to prevent this condition. Babies and children should specifically be isolated if they suffer from whooping cough. Secondly, babies should be kept away from people suffering from cold and other infectious respiratory diseases.
Vaccination (Tdap or DTP) is the best preventive measure against whooping cough. Babies are first given whooping cough vaccine when they are two months of age. There are several immunization programs held for the prevention of whooping cough. It is observed that high immunization lowers the risk of pertussis considerably. Secondly, healthy lifestyle and hygiene also plays a role in preventing this condition up to some extent.
It is essential to follow precautionary measures in order to prevent this condition. The vaccination available can provide up to 90% immunity against whooping cough. You can consult your doctor for more information about the vaccination. Take care!
Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide information and should not be substituted for proper medical consultation and treatment.