Pertussis in Adults

Whooping cough, also referred to as pertussis, is a severe infection that spreads easily from individual to individual. The disease causes uncontrollable, violent coughing spells that makes it hard to breathe, eat, or sleep.

Pertussis, typically called whooping cough, is brought on by a bacterial infection. It’s a highly contagious health problem that spreads quickly from individual to individual through air-borne bacteria from the nose and throat. While infants have the best chance of getting whooping cough, the disease can be contracted at any age.

Symptoms of Pertussis in Adults

In general, whooping cough starts off like an acute rhinitis. Symptoms can consist of runny nose, low-grade fever, exhaustion, and a moderate or periodic cough.

With time, coughing spells become more severe. Coughing might last for a number of weeks, sometimes 10 weeks or longer. Scientific studies recommend that up to 1 in 20 adults with a cough that lasts for more than two or three weeks might have pertussis. The severity of symptoms may differ in adults. Symptoms are often less severe in adults who have gained some protection against whooping cough from a previous immunization or infection.

Symptoms of pertussis in adults may consist of:

  • extended, severe coughing fits, followed by gasping for breath
  • vomiting after coughing fits
  • exhaustion after coughing fits

The classic “whoop” symptom is a high-pitched wheezing noise made when an individual gasps for breath after a severe coughing attack. This symptom may be missing in adults with whooping cough.

Pertussis Stages

It usually takes about seven to 10 days after being exposed to the infection to start showing symptoms. Full recovery from whooping cough might take 2 to 3 months. Physicians divide whooping cough into 3 stages:

Stage 1: The earliest stage of whooping cough may last one to two weeks. During this time, symptoms are similar to the acute rhinitis. You’re highly contagious during this time.

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Stage 2: Severe, violent coughing spells develop during this stage. Between coughing spells, people frequently gasp for breath, drool, and get teary-eyed. Vomiting and exhaustion might follow severe coughing fits. This stage usually lasts one to six weeks, however may last as long as 10 weeks. You stay contagious up until about two weeks after the cough starts.

Stage 3: In this stage, the cough begins to decrease. You’re no longer contagious at this time. This stage generally lasts 2 to 3 weeks. Because you’re more prone to other breathing infections, including the acute rhinitis, recovery may take longer if other illnesses happen.


While children are more likely to have complications from pertussis than adults, some complications might still occur in adults. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults with chronic whooping cough may experience: weight loss, urinary incontinence or bathroom mishaps, pneumonia, rib fractures from coughing, absence of sleep.

How Adults Can Prevent Pertussis

The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated. Tdap, a pertussis booster shot, is recommended for unvaccinated adults rather of their next Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster, which is given every 10 years.

The efficiency of vaccines decreases with time. Adults who were vaccinated versus pertussis as children can get whooping cough as their resistance, or security versus the disease, begins to fade.

Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider if you think you may have entered into contact with somebody with whooping cough, even if you have not developed a chronic cough.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Physicians normally identify whooping cough by taking a swab of mucus from the back of the throat or nose. They might likewise purchase a blood test. Early treatment is very important, due to the fact that it can assist prevent the spread of disease to other individuals, specifically babies, who are highly prone to the health problem.

Whooping cough is generally treated with antibiotics, which can help in reducing the intensity or length of time it requires to recover from the disease. Nevertheless, antibiotics aren’t most likely to assist if the cough has continued for more than 2 to 3 weeks.

Taking cough medications probably will not assist relieve symptoms. The CDC advises against taking cough medication unless advised by your doctor.

Reyus Mammadli

As a healthy lifestyle advisor I try to guide individuals in becoming more aware of living well and healthy through a series of proactive and preventive measures, disease prevention steps, recovery after illness or medical procedures.

Education: Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.

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