Whooping Cough and Adults

Whooping Cough and Adults

What You Need to Know About Whooping Cough in Adults

You may have heard of whooping cough as pertussis. Whooping cough is a serious illness for adults, but it can also show up in children and babies. The illness is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria.

Whooping cough comes on like a cold or the flu, but it develops into something much worse and can last for up to 21 days. The illness is less severe when the individual who has it has had the vaccine.

Is Whooping Cough Contagious?

Yes, whooping cough is highly contagious. Many people think that they only have a normal cold when they actually have pertussis, and if this is the case, they may unknowingly pass the illness on to others while they are sick.

In many individuals, pertussis is most contagious approximately 14 days after the severe coughing of the illness has begun. If individuals are able to take antibiotics during this time, this may shorten the duration of the cough and the spreading of the illness.

What Are the Symptoms of Whooping Cough in Adults?

The symptoms of whooping cough generally show up approximately 5 to 10 days after an individual has been exposed to the illness, and they start just as a normal cold would.

Many of those who have whooping cough say that they get a runny nose and low-grade fever in the beginning. The fever usually does not last for the duration of the illness. A small cough may occur after a while.

The cough will develop over time and get increasingly worse. In some individuals, vomiting because of a coughing spell may occur, but this is not always the case. Many of those who have had the whooping cough vaccine will not have this symptom. Exhaustion from extreme and prolonged spells of coughing is not uncommon. Again, if individuals are able to get a prescription for an antibiotic from their doctors, this may shorten the duration of the cough.

How Can Whooping Cough Be Prevented in Adults?

The best way to prevent against whooping cough is to get the Tdap vaccine. This vaccine should be given to babies, children and preteens, but you can also get it as an adult if you have not previously had it. More information is below.

In addition to making sure that you are up-to-date on your whooping cough vaccines, there are a few other things that you can do to help you prevent contracting this illness.

First, if someone has whooping cough, stay away from them if possible. If you are a caregiver, wear a protective mask, use gloves and try not to get too close unless absolutely necessary. Next, always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you are around other people or in public areas. This is a good practice whether others have pertussis or not.

Try to avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with your hands as well. Germs tend to spread via the hands most of all.

Who Should Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine?

Individuals from birth through adulthood should get the whooping cough vaccine, which is called Tdap. But check with a healthcare professional about the specific timeline.

For adults, those who are 19 years and older and did not get the Tdap vaccine when they were teens should get the whooping cough vaccine. It does not matter whether or not you have had a tetanus shot.

Again, always talk to your doctor about what is right for you in terms of whooping cough vaccines. And if you notice any signs or symptoms of this illness, make an appointment as soon as possible.


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