Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

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Comment from: Thornton , 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 16

I am 44 and just recently diagnosed with whooping cough. And it is horrible. I am constantly coughing so hard I gag, vomit and even lose bladder control. So exhausted from this. Cough is was a dry cough and now since I finished the antibiotic I am producing phlegm, ugh.

Comment from: YCowley, 7-12 Female (Caregiver) Published: July 10

Our doctors did not believe that our daughter had whooping cough and decided not to test for it. After 4 weeks of the most terrible cough, I insisted they test. Guess what - positive! Our daughter has had all her vaccinations to date and still got whooping cough. The cough is terrible and sounds like my child is going to choke. At the end of the cough, she takes a long breath in. She is vomiting now from all the phlegm.

Comment from: DSwanson, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: June 05

I am a 70 year old female, retired pediatrician with whooping cough. I was immunized five years ago with a Tdap, and have not been around anyone ill. I finished a course of erythromycin a few days ago, and still have no voice a full month after the onset of the catarrhal phase. Now, however, I am have more severe airway problems. I don't cough much, but now I have laryngospasm. It's worsening. I bent over to unplug my computer (no, I did not reflux), and, bam, my airway slammed shut. I deliberately coughed, with little success. My episode was so violent, I sank to my knees. I don't know how long the distress lasted, but I was in 4 plus, full on, 10/10 distress. It was self-limiting.

Comment from: 55-64 (Patient) Published: July 22

I contracted pertussis three years ago when I was 56 years old. It started with symptoms similar to bronchitis, but with the severe coughing others have described. I frequently coughed until vomiting, even if I had only consumed fluids. After two weeks of progressively severe coughing, I went to the doctor who took a swab for the lab. By then I was coughing up black phlegm. The results were positive for pertussis, and he gave me azithromycin which gradually helped lessen the coughing spasms. I coughed for another 6 months. Three years later, I continue to have occasional bronchial spasms I never previously had, frequently at night. Also, after having pertussis, I now gag and sometimes vomit every time I have a coughing spell from a mild cold, or from inhaling dust, etc. I am curious about symptoms which have persisted for three years, such as bronchial spasms, gagging, and what feels like some minor obstruction in my trachea or epiglottis.

Comment from: Marie, 45-54 Female Published: October 15

I've just been diagnosed with whooping cough. I thought I had bronchitis and had completed a 10-day dose of Cipro. I've had a horrible cough (think seal barking) for more than a month and went back to the doctor. It turns out I have all the symptoms of whooping cough and have for over 30 days. I also have asthma. Incidentally, Albuterol was not effective in helping my coughing fits. Symptoms I am experiencing are: exhaustion, bronchospasms (severe), runny nose, mucous, loss of appetite, weight loss, restless sleep, frequent severe coughing fits, burning in chest/lungs and tightness in my chest. I am now on a 7-day course of Biaxin, steroid inhaler and prescriptive cough medicine. -Marie

Comment from: Kim2033, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 22

I was just given a tentative diagnosis of whooping cough. They took the culture test, but the doctor seemed sure it is what I have. The cold-like symptoms have been terrible and as relentless as the cough. I started Z-pac, but it's likely too late to make a big difference with the cough. It is sheer misery. The loss of the ability to breathe is terrifying and the loss of bladder control when coughing adds some humiliation. I know I have weeks, maybe months, ahead of me. It just makes me cry.

Comment from: maxi, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 27

I started out with what I thought was a cold, but as the symptoms subsided, the cough did not. It only got worse. After two weeks of coughing and using the Albuterol inhaler, which did not provide any relief. After another visit to the doctor, I was finally tested and diagnosed with whooping cough and given a dose of antibiotics.

Comment from: nicki, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 10

I have had whooping cough for nearly five weeks now. The symptoms are a little less severe, yet still quite scary. As I cough, I feel as if my body is being electrocuted, and my head is about to explode. It is frightening because you simply cannot get a breath in. Nights are terrible with more frequent and severe bouts. I asked my doctor what I can do to rebuild my immune system. He simply said that it takes time. The healing process is very slow.

Comment from: stevens mummy, 0-2 Male (Patient) Published: September 10

My 6 week old son is in intensive care at the moment with whooping cough. I went to the doctors in the beginning with my son having a persistent cough and mucus coming up I was told it was a cold, 2 days later my son became worse and started going blue so I took him to hospital to get some answers yet again I was fobbed off with its a cold but he does have a lot of mucus on his chest but with it was clear it is not an infection. My son's condition worsened so I yet again went to the doctors where my son had a bad coughing fit, so I was finally referred to hospital for treatment but on the way my son totally stopped breathing and turned blue. When we got to hospital the consultant told me we had gone just in time as my sons lungs were that heavy due to all the mucus he couldn't breath for himself, my son had 2 respiratory arrests while at hospital so was transferred to another hospital to intensive care were he is currently under going treatment for whooping cough. I was so scared I was going to loose him and I feel if the doctors had listened to me at the start I wouldn't be sitting here now waiting for my son to recover and come off his ventilator.

Comment from: MaryJane, 3-6 Female (Caregiver) Published: February 14

My 3 year old granddaughter has asthma. She is now going on 13 days with this ongoing cough. Pediatricians 3 x's have said coughing is related to her asthma and so did a doctor at the ER. The last 5 days her coughing has changed where she even notices the difference, gets scared and is asking for her breathing treatment and says she can't breathe during these 2-5 minute coughing episodes. She's been on oral steroids, back to back breathing treatments, running a cool mist humidifier at night and a pediatrician now wants to add Cingular. ER did take some x-rays and only found inflammation which is related to asthma and no pneumonia, but that was before this more concerning cough started.

Comment from: pgus, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: July 09

I'm a 57 year old female and coughed for about 2 weeks, I knew something was wrong when no remedy helped and I was worse at night. Finally I went to the Dr. and he thought I had reflux and I disagreed and ask him to do a whooping cough test and he did and it came back positive. I took 2 z packs and got cough syrup. I have now still had symptoms for 3 months. As they say it's the 100 day cough. I still feel irritated in my bronchial tubes, so I went back to Dr. and he gave me Keflex, which seems to be helping, he thought I might have a secondary infection. Also I got an inhaler, tessalon pearl cough pills. This has been the worse cough ever. They reported it to the department of health and it was 7 days before I got the results from my test. I got a TDP shot and I recommend anybody up to 65 to get this shot, for there is no way to know how many people are walking around with it. It will take your breath and you can't stop coughing, if you had a weak vessel in your head it would probably burst. Also cold air and drinks make mine worse. I feel for all you out there with this, I work at a health dept. and please get a shot now.

Comment from: lhill, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 01

I took an X-ray which was negative, but was given a Z-PAC and more antihistamines with no results. Went to the ENT in November and he did the r/o treatments for asthma, reflux and allergy, with no improvement. This year I have done everything, tried every allergy med, every cough syrup, honey, lemon, and done anything anyone told me to try to rid myself of my racking cough. It was always worse when I first woke up, and I had many triggers that would make my coughing worse, brushing my teeth, eating, especially crackers, bread, chips. Touching the inside of my ear, certain odors etc. I went back to ENT on Tuesday (it has been 1 year this week) and told him I was totally exhausted and needed HELP! He ordered a serum pertussis and he called me this afternoon and told me it was. I am relieved that I finally have a diagnosis but HOW LONG is this cough going to hang on. Please Lord make it stop!

Comment from: Vanshira, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: October 20

I was just given a tentative diagnosis of pertussis yesterday, along with a five-day course of azithromycin. I'd been sick with what I thought was a particularly bad cold over the weekend and had been feeling better yesterday until something suddenly triggered a coughing fit so severe I couldn't draw a normal-sized breath between coughs, and I vomited at the end of it. I'm a clinical lab science student, and I know I've never been properly vaccinated against pertussis (I'm allergic to the vaccine), so that one bad coughing fit set off alarm bells in my brain, and I hiked to the campus clinic as fast as I could. Turns out, there is some pertussis circulating around campus, in addition to seasonal flu and H1N1. Since I sought medical help as soon as possible, instead of waiting until I'd been coughing for weeks already, they hope that the antibiotics will lead to a shorter disease course. Pay attention to your coughs! If you're coughing hard enough to throw up, or so hard you have trouble breathing, waiting for it to go away on its own is NOT the way to go!

Comment from: sweetipie, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 31

I am a 53 year old female. I have had whooping cough for about 3 months now. My cough has been so bad that I have had episodes of fainting, vomiting and convulsions. It has been exhausting.

Comment from: Kinasgirl, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 31

I had whooping cough at two months old, before vaccinations due. I had to be in an incubator and was ill for two months, and have permanent lifelong asthma and breathing difficulties.

Comment from: 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: June 19

I am a 52 year old woman, extremely healthy who came down with what I thought was a sinus infection in early April, 2012. It progressed into a cough. I have taken two Z-pak and another around of antibiotics. I have tried over the counter medications along with cough suppressant with codeine. My coughing spasms were severe between 3-6 weeks. I thought I had a hernia at one point and later had severe pain in my shoulder. I am now in week 9 and have tightness and heaviness in the chest along with the persistent cough. I do use an inhaler to ease symptoms. I most recently have tried a steroid pack with no relief. Please get a booster shot if you are in my age category. This has been the worst two months of my life! I hope that the cough soon starts lessening, or I might lose my mind!

Comment from: MarcoIslandWorkers, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: March 08

My wife and I are both through all the antibiotics and even after a double dose of Z-pack, we still suffer nightly. It is pure hell with no relief in sight. We cough till we lose our ability to breath. We went back to work after a month out and still are struggling in the evening and night. We both have been tested to confirm we have whooping cough. What a change in our lives. We hope our doctor knows what he is doing, because we sure don't want to give this to others.

Comment from: momof2, 3-6 Female (Caregiver) Published: January 24

A year ago my son, at 23 months old, developed pertussis. He started with just a bit of a cold, sniffles, sore throat, but through the night started a fever and the barking cough. By morning he was having so much trouble breathing he was in drawing his chest with every breath it made an indent I could put my fist in and was very lethargic.

Comment from: Obrien01, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: December 27

Looking over symptoms, it's clear I have whooping cough but it has been a struggle to get it diagnosed due to the GPs not considering it. The coughing fits are a nightmare to deal with, initially losing nights of sleep and unable to conduct business in case phone calls or meetings were reduced to coughing fits. At 7 weeks it is starting to subside but very gradually. I have been on a course of amoxicillin and Erythromicin with both having minimal impact.

Comment from: Barb, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 16

I have just been diagnosed with whooping cough, and it's horrible. The other night when I was having "one of those terrible coughing spells" my throat started closing up and it was scary. I can handle the vomiting with the coughing, but not the throat spasms. I am now on my third antibiotic, and so far nothing has worked. I had always heard pertussis was bad, but I never thought I would find that out first hand. I will be praying for ALL of those out there with this awful illness, especially the children.

Comment from: Jhorton, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: November 08

I am 26 male, with a good build and little to no medical history. I have tested positive for whooping cough. I think I have been dealing with it for a couple months before proper diagnosis. The symptoms I had are not too much like the typical descriptions online. I did have a cough, but really never a "coughing attack." It was more of a cough or two to clear my throat, or one big cough that would rattle my chest in a deep way. I had trouble sleeping, because I would lie down and feel like my breathing was being restricted. This was the worst part. I am now on a Z-Pack and hope this clears it up soon. I have just become an uncle and want to see my new beautiful baby niece.

Comment from: Giuseppe, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: September 20

I am from Italy and I'm 42 years old. I got whooping cough two months ago. I was not convinced of my family doctor diagnosis so she made me some blood tests, which were positive.

Comment from: Mohawk742, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: August 23

My bout with pertussis occurred in 1952. I had recently turned 10 years old, and had started school. My parents thought my runny nose and cough were the usual early school-year 'common cold.' But one night I awoke in an absolute panic. I was coughing uncontrollably, and when I tried to suck air... there WASN'T any! I was coughing my lungs empty of air, but I was getting only sips of air back. The gasping whoop sound coming from my throat and chest just made the panic worse. My mother, an RN, recognized the symptoms, bundled me up, and we headed for the doctor's home office, five miles away. I remember almost nothing of the next five weeks, just pain (those coughs HURT!) and terror. But eventually I began to recover, and by the next August I was well enough to attend 4-H camp (but no swimming!).

Comment from: Sam, 0-2 Female (Caregiver) Published: August 23

My five-year-old daughter started with a cough which became more and more severe, no fever, no flu-like symptoms she appeared to be completely healthy which confused us. At night the coughing became even worse with vomiting and gasping for air. When our two month old started with a cough I took them both to the GP who told me there was nothing wrong and gave me cough syrup. Three days later our baby was admitted to hospital by a specialist pediatrician who diagnosed it immediately after one cough. We were in for a week where they monitored her breathing closely as she turned blue when coughing. Our five-year-old is only now starting to get over it after three months. Our baby is three months old and still waking up every two hours with a cough but is slowly getting better. Please trust your instincts and get second opinions from specialists, your baby could die if not watched carefully.

Comment from: Andy, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: May 02

I am a 51 year old male. I contracted whooping cough 6 weeks ago but was only diagnosed after two weeks of coughing. The worst part for me has been the development of laryngospasms (temporary choking episodes) immediately after coughing fits. I had previously had these episodes only two times but the coughing fits have triggered them on a regular basis. Thankfully I have noticed that the severity of the coughing episodes has reduced over the last ten days but still lack energy.

Comment from: Fun1fun, 25-34 Female (Caregiver) Published: April 20

I had pertussis January 2004, at the age of 34. I had just completed a rural medicine rotation and felt like the flu was coming on. By early January I had the infamous cough, just as I was to begin my cardiology rotation. It took three doctor visits before the pulmonologist diagnosed it. It was then6 long weeks with the cough, despite antibiotics. Pneumonia followed and I missed a lot of rotation time.

Comment from: SheRa, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 13

I had what I thought was a cold back in June, but after a month the cough wouldn't go away. I went to my primary care physician then, and she told me I had bronchitis. I tried inhalers and prescription cough suppressants for another month, but I just could not get the cough to go away -- and it would come in fits, worse at night than during the day, triggered especially by things like eating, brushing my teeth, etc. I went back and they *still* said bronchitis, that it would just "take a long time". So they gave me some codeine so I could sleep, I started using a neti pot to deal with post-nasal drip, and it started getting a little better. Then the ragweed season started, the cough got even worse, and on Labor Day weekend we did some major cleaning and uncovered a carpet beetle infestation hiding behind a cabinet -- and I proceeded to have a five-hour coughing fit that woke me up and sent me to Urgent Care. I barked like a seal in the exam room waiting for the Physician's Assistant, and she pretty much diagnosed pertussis on the spot! Of course, after 3 months, it's not like the antibiotics are going to help me much, but I'm now on inhaled steroids, and those at least seem to be helping the inhaler to work, for the first time. And I guess I'm glad it's pertussis and not asthma, which is pretty much the only other thing I thought it could be.

Comment from: Louise D, 7-12 Female (Patient) Published: August 02

Right now I'm on the last stage of whooping cough. I will tell you that it wasn't a pleasant experience. I never got enough sleep and I do recall vomiting after coughing fits, but luckily I was on antibiotics at the time. It wasn't as bad as some cases. Knowing that mine was a mild case, I felt completely awful about people who have severe cases. After I read more about it I knew it spread very easily and I eventually spread it to my family. But I'm also very blessed because my family hardly got it after taking precautions.

Comment from: Pauline, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: July 21

I had the symptoms starting first with the coughing especially when lying down, or after speaking, followed by sneezing, runny nose. First doctor said allergies, second doctor did skin tests, treated me for allergies also. Then he suggested it was gastric reflux, this was confirmed by my internist who increased the medication for gastric reflux and gave me cough medicine so I could get some rest at night. I continued to suffer with gagging, choking, coughing etc. Tired, and worn out, along with bruised ribs that made coughing very painful. It wasn't until a co worker read an article published by the CDC and I happen to start an antibiotic for sinus problems that the puzzle came together. The doctor agreed it was very possible, whooping cough, I didn't need any test because within 48 hrs. I was symptom free. This after almost 8 months with no answers, why didn't one of these doctors put two and two together, even consider the possibility of whooping cough. We have to be a very educated patients nowadays.

Comment from: Female (Patient) Published: January 05

I am a 51 year old woman who caught Pertussis from my 11-year-old daughter in October. I'm in month 4 now, and although the cough is lessening, I still cough violently, have pain behind the breastbone and completely lack stamina. The bronchial spasms were terrifying with my daughter, whom it took 4 doctor visits and a 911 call to diagnose. The only thing that helped was sitting up to sleep (for months!) and steroid breathing treatments with a nebulizer. These lessen the bronchial spasms. I have found that the best way to treat pertussis is to avoid it altogether. This can be done through vaccinations.

Comment from: Natalia, 7-12 Male (Caregiver) Published: December 08

My 9-year-old son has been diagnosed with pertussis. It is very scary to watch him gasp for breath. He took the antibiotics as prescribed by his physician and still has had symptoms now for two months. What bothers me is that he was vaccinated for whooping cough, so I understand why he got it.

Comment from: ignome, Published: October 07

My daughters have had whooping cough for about three weeks. We have been giving them a combination of homeopathic prescribed by our naturopath, which seem to be working very well. There has been no vomiting and the phlegm is not getting stuck but is moving up nicely. I have been giving them licorice tea which lines the digestive tract including the throat. Garlic is a great anti-microbial so I have been putting it into a lot of our meals. Also, of course, we have cut out all dairy as it is mucous-forming. The families that we know whose children have had whooping cough all tell of the strong immune system their children now possess - they do not get colds anymore. I have noticed a significant physical and mental growth in my children during this period of illness. Plenty of warmth and rest is required during this long period - the cough increases significantly with physical activity. We have spent a lot of family time doing puzzles, charades, monopoly, etc. The convalescence period is important as our friends have had their whooping cough come back on when they thought they had gotten over it. Our naturopath has been very helpful in providing us with many positive ways in which to assist our children. Whooping cough has been around for a long time so there are many remedies available to help get through it. The doctors are unfortunately not equipped to provide these. Look for real help that supports the body.

Comment from: Jhian G, 7-12 Male (Patient) Published: October 07

My pertussis began like a normal cold, runny nose, slight cough and slight fever but the cough persisted for more than 4 weeks and now has vomiting with it. It is worse at night. Malaise, fatigue and dizziness, no appetite has developed as well.

Comment from: chrisr, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: January 04

My wife, who is 47, is now in the 9th week of pertussis (whooping cough), which was diagnosed with a blood test. She has been mostly bedridden for the duration, because any activity triggers intense coughing that lasts as long as 45 minutes and usually causes her to faint. The coughing is dry; there has never been any mucous at all. It is very painful. Clarithromycin and tessalon pearls did not help. Tussinex may help, but only slightly. This is a debilitating, painful, very persistent disease. Do not take any chances -- get your kids vaccinated, and everyone should get the recommended booster shots.

Comment from: Scott, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: June 14

I'm a 49 year old male in my 3rd month with Pertussis. Seven doctors have been unable to diagnose it. My blood continues to test positive for bacteria and has been sent to the CDC. I receive zero relief from all medications including antibiotics, inhalers, allergenics, cough suppressants, and steroids. My symptoms are always exactly as stated in all of the literatures I have found. This is my forth battle with this disease in as many years. The symptoms are always the same and last up to four months.

Comment from: dkdean, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: December 31

After having a bad cough for 2 weeks, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with bronchitis. I was put on antibiotics but didn't feel better. I went back to the doctor 3 weeks later and was put on another z-pack. She did blood work for pertussis (whooping cough) and for mono and a week later the pertussis test came back as positive. The cough was one that I couldn't control. I would cough and cough and couldn't catch my breath. It was bad during the day, but much worse at night. I slept sitting up for about 7-8 weeks. My chest (breastbone area) was so tight and hurt even when I wasn't coughing. The coughing really consisted of true spasms. I was taking a prescription cough syrup (plus the 2 z-packs) but the coughing continued. Thankfully, after the first round of antibiotics I wasn't considered contagious (important because I am an elementary school teacher), but the cough itself was around for 4-5 months (started in early September and was gone in February),but the worst coughing was in those first 2-3 months.

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Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCES:

The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy 2005

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United States. California Department of Public Health. "Whooping Cough Epidemic May Be Worst in 50 Years." June 23, 2010. <http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR10-041.aspx>.

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United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Pertussis (Whooping Cough) - What You Need to Know." May 12, 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Pertussis/>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2013 Provisional Pertussis Surveillance Report. Jan. 3, 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/downloads/Pertussis-Surveillance-Report.pdf>.

United States. Washington State Department of Health. "Whooping Cough Case Count Passes 1,000 Cases in WA -- Epidemic Continues." Apr. 24, 2012. <http://www.doh.wa.gov/Publicat/2012_news/12-045.htm>.

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