Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough Adults


An Overview of Whooping Cough in Adults

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. Most adults who contract the disease get it by being around infected children or other adults. The bacteria is spread relatively easily by sneezing and coughing, and individuals who have been diagnosed with the condition should remain isolated from others until they have recovered. Physicians will be able to provide a timeline so that patients will know when they are no longer contagious. Adults with whooping cough should be especially careful that they do not pass the bacteria onto young children, who will have more vulnerable respiratory systems.


Whooping cough, when it appears in adults, usually first induces symptoms that appear much like the common cold. Infected individuals are likely to experience a runny nose, sneezing, and the characteristic deep coughing that is usually most associated with the disease. A low-grade fever might also be present. If sufferers find that their body temperature has become elevated, they might ease the discomfort by placing a cold, damp washcloth over their foreheads. Whooping cough fevers are most noticeable just below the hairline and near the temples. Damp cloths can ease the mild throbbing sensation that comes with a mild to moderate fever.


Whooping cough in adults can be treated effectively early on with antibiotics. In the beginning stages of the infection, the bacteria has yet to widely reproduce and may still be confined to a few isolated outposts. Antibiotics can quickly kill the bacterial particles, which will shorten the duration of the disease and get rid of the symptoms before they become more severe.

If the condition has already progressed, however, then antibiotics will be less effective. Over-the-counter cough syrups are not generally recommended. As with most respiratory illnesses, patients should get plenty of rest and remain as hydrated as possible. Copious amounts of water and juice will provide a boost to the affected tissue, which will then have an easier time expelling the bacteria and returning to normal.

Diet and Nutrition

The severity of the symptoms may be lessened by an attention to nutrition. Large quantities of fruits and vegetables can provide the body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to fight the bacteria. Fatty, fried foods like meats and cheeses should generally be avoided. Some of the best remedies from the olden days, such as chicken noodle soup, will reduce inflammation and perhaps even help with decongestion.


In most cases, a formal diagnosis will be made after blood has been drawn. Through a complete blood count, specialists will be able to tell through special culturing of nasopharyngeal swabs if the bacteria is present. There are related strains of pertussis that are milder and less severe. In nearly all cases, the bacteria can be formally identified only during the first few weeks of illness.

In order for an effective treatment regimen to move forward, therefore, the condition must be caught early on. Vaccines are an alternative method of prevention, but even then they are only between 70 and 80% effective. The World Health Organization (WHO)recommends the whooping cough vaccine as a matter of course, especially for adults who may be vulnerable.

Ultimately, adults who have been diagnosed with whooping cough should be closely monitored for complications. Individuals with weak immune systems may develop pneumonia and bronchitis. Adults who have previously had seizures should also be monitored. Most men and women, however, will recover without any further problems. All interested individuals can of course speak with their personal physician for more information.