Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Whooping cough (pertussis) facts
- What is whooping cough? What is the history of whooping cough?
- What causes whooping cough?
- What are risk factors for whooping cough?
- Can whooping cough be prevented with a vaccine?
- What are whooping cough symptoms, signs, and stages?
- How is whooping cough transmitted?
- Can adults get whooping cough?
- How is whooping cough diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for whooping cough?
- What is the prognosis for whooping cough?
- What are possible complications of whooping cough?
- Where can people find more information about whooping cough (pertussis)?
What is the treatment for whooping cough?
Antibiotics directed against Bordetella pertussis can be effective in reducing the severity of whooping cough when administered early in the course of the disease. Antibiotic therapy can also help reduce the risk of transmission of the bacterium to other household members as well as to others who may come into contact with an infected person. Unfortunately, most people with whooping cough are diagnosed later with the condition in the second (paroxysmal) stage of the disease.
Treatment with antibiotics is recommended for anyone who has had the disease for less than three to four weeks. Azithromycin (Zithromax), clarithromycin (Biaxin), erythromycin (E-Mycin, Eryc, Ery-Tab, PCE, Pediazole, Ilosone), and trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra) are antibiotics which have been shown to be effective in treating whooping cough. It is unclear whether antibiotics have any benefit for people who have been ill with whooping cough for longer than three to four weeks, although antibiotic therapy still is often considered for this group often. There is no proven effective treatment for the paroxysms of coughing that accompany whooping cough.
Antibiotics also are routinely administered to people who have had close contact with an infected person, regardless of their vaccination status.
What is the prognosis for whooping cough?
The infection gradually resolves over a period of weeks, but the coughing paroxysms can persist for several months. The prognosis is worse when complications such as bacterial pneumonia (see below) develop in a person with whooping cough. Young infants are at highest risk of serious complications and even death from whooping cough.
Data indicate that secondary pneumonia occurs in about one out of every 20 infants with whooping cough, and one out of 100 affected infants develop convulsions. Most deaths from whooping cough have occurred in children who have not been vaccinated or who are too young to have received the vaccine.
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