About Whooping Cough

It is a worrying condition for many parents but being aware of the whooping cough symptoms in adults and children, treatments and prevention of this nasty disease can help put your mind at ease. 

It is a highly contagious bacterial infection, in Australia epidemics of the illness occur every three to four years. According to Queensland Health there were 28,732 reported cases of a whooping cough in 2011. 


How is whooping cough spread? 

Whooping cough is highly contagious and although it is commonly known as a childhood illness it can affect anyone at any age. 

Being a bacterial infection, whooping cough can be spread from person to person via coughing and sneezing. It can be passed on through contact with secretions from the mouth or nose, such as saliva or mucus. 

Unfortunately, the incubation period for whooping cough is rather long, which adds to its ability to infect many individuals. You can be exposed to the illness and not begin developing symptoms for seven to ten days. However, in some cases it may even take up to three weeks. 

Individuals are considered most infectious in the early stages of whooping cough. Unless treated with antibiotics you are considered infectious for three weeks after the first sign of a cough or 14 days after bouts of coughing begin. 

What are the whooping cough symptoms in adults and children? 

Whooping cough symptoms in adults are generally less life-threatening than in children. In both cases early signs of whooping cough are cold like symptoms including a runny nose, sneezing and fatigue. 

It then develops into the characteristic bouts of coughing, these can be quite severe and frightening to experience and witness. This coughing can result in a crowing or ‘whooping’ noise. This can continue for several weeks even after treatment and gagging and vomiting may follow. 

Babies are most at risk of whooping cough and it can be a life threatening illness for them. In some cases it may cause complications such as pneumonia, fits and brain damage. This is due to a prolonged lack of oxygen in babies and young children. 

Image of a doctor treating a child whopping cough

How do I treat whooping cough? 

Antibiotics can treat whooping cough and can also relieve the symptoms if administered early enough. This will also reduce the incubation period in which individuals are contagious.

How can I prevent contracting whooping cough? 

The best prevention against whooping cough is to receive the vaccination. Pregnant women should receive the vaccine during their third trimester of pregnancy. This allows for antibodies to be created and passed through the mother’s blood stream to the baby. 

Newborns are unable to receive the whooping cough vaccine until eight weeks of age. Therefore, anyone who will have close contact with a newborn baby are encouraged to receive a booster. 

In Australia the vaccine is combined with diphtheria and tetanus and is recommended as part of the National Immunisation Program Schedule. 

Avoid contact with people infected with whooping cough to lessen your chances of catching the illness. Those who are suffering from whooping cough should stay away from work, school, pre-school, or childcare until at least day five of their antibiotics course. 

If a child is unable to take antibiotics they are encouraged to stay away from others for 21 days after the initial sign of a cough. If you believe you or a loved one may have whooping cough and have booked a doctors appointment it is important to alert staff prior to or immediately on arrival. 

This article was written by Home Doctor Brisbane team.