Exposed to Whooping Cough…Now What?

Whooping cough or pertussis is not an extremely serious disease for the adults; but for kids, it is indeed a serious issue. This infection of the airway or the respiratory tract releases toxins that inflame the airways. Therefore, the person, while experiencing long bursts of coughing repeatedly for 2 to 3 minutes, faces difficulty in breathing. Kids are especially troubled with whooping cough as their airways are narrower than the adults, resulting in difficulty in breathing. Sometimes, their breathing stops and babies become blue or pale due to lack of oxygen.

Older kids or even adults end up making a whooping noise at the end of their coughing bout every time. Hence, pertussis is commonly named as whooping cough. Whooping cough can lead both kids and adults to vomit due to the extreme coughing.

Exposed to Whooping Cough…Now What?

Exposure to Whooping Cough

Whooping cough or pertussis is a bacterial infection caused by Bordetella pertussis. This bacterium is an airborne one that spreads from an infected person to another through their cough or sneeze, in the form of droplets. Whooping cough or pertussis is highly contagious and coming in close contact with an infected person or sharing breathing space with an infected person may lead to acquiring the disease.

What Should You Do If You Are Exposed To Whooping Cough?

So, if you know that you have been in close contact with a person infected with whooping cough, you need to see a doctor at once to know what you should do. The doctor would evaluate you to see if you are suitable for the chemoprophylaxis or not. The chemoprophylaxis is an antibiotic treatment that is given in order to prevent whooping cough or pertussis from occurring at all. It should be given as soon as possible or preferably within 24 hours of the exposure to the bacteria or to the infected person.

A number of antibiotics can be given to the exposed person as chemoprophylaxis. The right antibiotic for whooping cough is chosen depending on the medical history of the person and also as per the medical guidelines of the country. If you are exposed to a whooping cough or pertussis infected person in a public area, all the other people with you, who have tentatively been exposed to the infection, are recommended to take the chemoprophylaxis antibiotics.

What To Do If You Do Not Take Chemoprophylaxis?

You can choose not to take the chemoprophylaxis antibiotics to treat whooping cough or pertussis. In that case, you will have to start your antibiotic course as soon as you encounter the first signs and symptoms. Usually, it takes 7 to 10 days from the exposure to encounter the symptoms of whooping cough. However, the incubation period can be less than this or even up to 20 days. In most cases, the symptoms of whooping cough resemble those of common cold and are mild. Rather than going away on their own, the symptoms only worsen, leading to bouts of whooping cough and difficulty in breathing or even vomiting after the bouts. If you are exposed to an infected person suffering from whooping cough, even if you get the early signs and symptoms that resemble that of common cold, the doctor would prescribe antibiotic course. Antibiotics are the only way to treat whooping cough and from the first day of the treatment course, the symptoms are lessened and whooping cough or pertussis becomes less contagious.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 21, 2021

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