Even though whooping cough can be prevented with a vaccine, it remains a large problem in the United States, both because of growing numbers of unvaccinated children and the fact that the whooping cough vaccine can wear off in the teenage years. We’ve answered some frequently asked questions about whooping cough below.

What is Whooping Cough?

Whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. It’s characterized by severe hacking coughs that are followed by a sharp breath that makes a “whooping” sound. Before the whooping cough vaccine was developed, whooping cough was considered a childhood disease. However, it is now most common in infants who haven’t yet been vaccinated and teenagers whose vaccinations have worn off.

What does Whooping Cough Sound Like?

The name “whooping cough” is derived from the sound the infected make directly following a coughing fit. First, they develop a persistent and uncontrollable cough. As the coughing fit comes to an end, it’s followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that makes a “whoop” sound.

Is Whooping Cough Contagious?

Yes. Whooping cough is highly contagious. It can be passed through respiratory secretions, so it’s very important for people with whooping cough to cover their mouth when coughing and to wash their hands often to prevent others from contracting the bacteria.
How Common is Whooping Cough?

Because of regular vaccine schedules in the United States, whooping cough is much less common than it was in the past. That said, there are fairly common institutional outbreaks of whooping cough, which mostly affect children who haven’t gone through their full vaccination schedule and teenagers whose vaccine has worn off.

How to Treat Whooping Cough?

If you think your child might have whooping cough, make an appointment with your pediatrician right away. While whooping cough can go away on its own, if it’s caught early enough, antibiotics can help kids recover more quickly. In fact, antibiotics can even make children less contagious, which can help prevent whooping cough outbreaks.

At Woodburn Pediatric Clinic, we’re dedicated to providing comprehensive diagnoses and care for our diverse set of patients. Contact us at 503-981-5348 to make an appointment and feel free to browse our Children’s Health Education Blog, which is a great resource for information about common illnesses, ADHD, and other parenting tips.