Home » Whooping Cough- symptoms, how it sounds, tests and treatment

Whooping Cough- symptoms, how it sounds, tests and treatment

Baby coughing with whooping cough

Facts and advice on whooping cough direct from paediatricians. Standing next to a small unvaccinated baby with severe whooping cough is among the most worrying thing I have ever experienced. The baby gets such horrific cough attacks that they often end up turning blue-gray and losing breath, sometimes even consciousness. A baby with severe loss of breath and anxiety is one of the hardest things to see, believe me. And no one can help the baby through the cough attack.

As a paediatrician, you do what you can, and often you can get the child breathing again after the cough attack. But sometimes it doesn't help. Two infants died from whooping cough in 2014, and one child died in 2015. I also know that many babies with whooping cough have repeatedly diagnosed with a normal cough and been sent home without sampling, without anyone thinking of whooping cough, because they did not see a cough attack at the time.

Symptoms of whooping cough in infants

The first symptom of whooping cough in an infant may be respiratory arrest. If your child suffers respiratory arrest you need to shake the child and usually the child begins to breathe. If not, you can give mouth-to-mouth breathing and call 112. Of course, you must come to the paediatrician after a respiratory arrest, and then make sure that the child is tested for whooping cough.

If someone in the family has been coughing for a long time, the child should probably have antibiotic treatment as if it were whooping cough before the test results arrive.

Normally the infection progresses like the common cold with the sniffles and cough for a few days. But unlike a common cold, the cough does not get better, but it gets worse and worse.

The cough attacks become awful and when the child inhales it wheezes loudly - the child chokes.

Symptoms of whooping cough in older children and adults

In older children and adults, whooping cough infection appears much more like a regular, common cold. The symptoms typical in infants are not found. The disease is also not dangerous for older children and adults, only painful.

If you are close to infants and catch a cough - get tested for whooping cough! I know that there are many who have been denied such testing by health care doctors. I get equally angry every time.

All infants who may have been infected should receive antibiotics

It is true that in the case of whooping cough, which is a bacterial disease, antibiotics help if they are given early, before the coughing starts. It is most effective if you get it before you even get symptoms. There is a special antibiotic called Ery-Max that the children receive. Common penicillin does not help. Unfortunately, it really causes a lot of stomach side effects. But a screaming baby with a stomach ache for ten days is so much better than a baby with whooping cough.

Vaccine against whooping cough 

Vaccines against whooping cough are included in the general vaccination program. It is a truly life-saving vaccine, babies who have received a dose of vaccine may well get whooping cough, but they survive their whooping cough.

Many adults lack protection from whooping cough and can infect infants 

Barn får påfyllnadsdoer av kikhostevaccin vid 5 och 15 års ålder. Men därefter finns inga påfyllnadsdoser. Det innebär att väldigt många vuxna är oskyddade mot sjukdomen.

In addition, there was a period during the 1980s when no vaccination against whooping cough in Sweden was available due to suspicions that the old whooping cough vaccine (so-called whole-cell vaccine against whooping cough) had caused severe side effects in some infants.

The vaccine used in Sweden now (acellular whooping cough vaccine) has no serious side effects, but is also not very effective.

Therefore, the number of cases of whooping cough in Sweden is increasing, and the risk of infecting infants is increasing.

Pertussis vaccine for pregnant women protects infants against whooping cough

In the United Kingdom, we recently had an even worse whooping cough epidemic than was currently experienced in Sweden. There, 14 infants died in 2012 and 13 infants in 2013 to 2016. In 2017, no child in the UK died of whooping cough after introducing whooping cough vaccination of pregnant women.

Pertussis vaccine for pregnant women protects in two ways. Partly because the mother forms antibodies that are transmitted via the placenta to the newborn baby. Partly because the mother herself receives protection and does not risk getting sick and infecting the baby when it is newborn.

In Sweden, the general vaccination of pregnant women against whooping cough is not recommended, as it is not considered cost-effective considering how unusual the infection is. It does not prevent individual pregnant women from going to a vaccination agency and requesting a replenishment dose of whooping cough vaccine during the last third of pregnancy.

Breastfeeding does not provide any more protection against whooping cough compared to bottle feeding.

In summary:

Whooping cough is a deadly disease for infants. It can be prevented through vaccinations for pregnant women, through vaccinations for the infants from two months of age and through antibiotic treatment for infants exposed to infection. Test infants and their family members with suspected whooping cough.

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27 thoughts on “Kikhosta – symptom, hur det låter, test och behandling”

  1. Skulle du rekommendera mig att vaccinera mig? Är gravid i vecka 29+1. Har en son på 2,5 på förskola. Jag och pappan har haft kikhosta men för längre än 15 år sedan. bebis beräknad i februari månad.

    På vilket sätt påverkas bebisens kommande vaccinationer?

    1. Jag tycker den nuvarande rekommendationen i Sverige är klok med tanke på smittläget och risken för att bebisens eget vaccinationssvar eventuellt kan påverkas framöver.

  2. Here the whole family was recommended to vaccinate when I was pregnant, everyone - except me !! "Can affect the baby's upcoming vaccinations," I was told. Baby is now 3 weeks old. How can there be so different advice in different county councils?

    1. Pregnancy vaccination is not an official recommendation in any county or national in Sweden. The theory that it could affect the baby's upcoming vaccinations is not entirely taken out of the air, it could theoretically be so. The knowledge I convey here is the latest state of the art regarding whooping cough protection, it was probably because the person who recommended did not know about the latest research results, or the person did not dare to give advice that was not included in the official guidelines.

  3. Read that whooping cough is caused by a bacterium. Then why are you vaccinated? After all, you usually vaccinate against viruses.

    1. Hey! You can vaccinate against both bacteria and viruses. Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

  4. Hey, after how many days does the baby get some protection after dose 1? I did not dare to vaccinate my baby because of the cold and realize that the baptism is only 1.5v after the new time of vaccination. Can my baby develop 1.5v protection?
    Greetings Sabina

    1. Hey! It is not possible to respond safely, but it is clear that you should have baptism no matter how the vaccination is in relation to it. Whooping cough is especially contagious at close contact, as in families. Just don't let your baby cuddle with clearly coughy and cold friends and relatives!

  5. In the United States, as pregnant, they are asked to take Tdap vaccine (which includes whooping cough) in weeks 27-36, to give some protection to the unborn child and to reduce the risk of self-infection. In addition, the CDC recommends that everyone who is in close contact with the child should be vaccinated at least two weeks before the child's estimated birth. Maybe something that should also be discussed in Sweden?

  6. So fucking horrible disease. The day before yesterday we learned that our little girl had had whooping cough 4 weeks unnecessarily, because a nurse did not take the test right !! Every day, terrified, so that our little heart won't wake up any more. Unfortunately he didn't give me any vaccine before she got sick. Now we just hope she gets well soon.

  7. We are not going to start taking pertussis tests at the health care center on anyone who requires it just because they read this post. You can't come to us and order samples anyway. In justified suspicion and in the risk situation and or known ongoing outbreaks in the surroundings, then maybe.
    Erik, district doctor

  8. My daughter got whooping cough when she was 4 months old - got infected by her big brother (who then went to kindergarten). We got antibiotics for the whole family and everyone got well. Now daughter is 16 years 😀

  9. Even more sad is that the mother told her that the baby was infected by her newly vaccinated big sister, but that the healthcare refused to think it would be whooping cough, "because you are not infected because you are vaccinated" but JO deg was JUST EXACTLY what happened. Therefore, they are extra sad that they did not take parents' concerns seriously.

  10. Hey! Does the baby have a (albeit not satisfactory) protection even after the first two doses or is it only after dose three at 12 months that it is protected? Thanks in advance!

    1. Yes, the baby has a fine protection after the first two doses. A pretty good one after the first dose actually.

  11. Hi my then three week old baby was exposed to whooping cough at the nursery of one of the staff. We got anribiotic for her. 1 1 / 2-2 v after that she has been cold. Everyone in the family has been pre-cold just before (has a 3-year-old) can it be whooping cough? Can we have it without the cough breaking out? Should we request sampling at bvc? how early can you see it on the samples?

    1. BVC cannot take samples. And one should stay away from it with suspected whooping cough. I think it makes sense to try her, the health care center or the nursery in question should be able to help with that.

  12. Of us who are not vaccinated, what proportion have the disease (child diseases almost everyone in an unvaccinated population) and thus are immune? If my mom says I had whooping cough (symptoms, no sampling), can I be pretty sure I'm immune then?

    1. After undergoing illness, you are only immune for about 15 years. Then you can get the disease again.

  13. Where I live, new parents, as well as grandparents, are recommended to be vaccinated against whooping cough before or immediately after the new baby in the family is born (if relevant people have not been vaccinated for the past 5 years).
    In addition, the recommendations are very strong and are often asked once, twice and three times, towards the end of the pregnancy, if you yourself and your immediate family are vaccinated. Information about the vaccine is given and where to get it. I think VERY good because I probably didn't think about it otherwise when I was pregnant the first time.

    Why is it not done in Sweden? You want to be forward with everything in Sweden so I am quite shocked that something so important and simple is not discussed with future parents!

    1. This is probably a question that the state whooping cough investigation I mentioned is discussing.

  14. Thanks for a great post! A small note to avoid confusion: Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium (otherwise antibiotics will not help).
    "NOTE that you should not be tested for antibodies against whooping cough, but for the virus itself"

  15. Can you be a carrier without knowing it? Think a lot about what I am talking about because most of my surroundings are now pregnant and / or have babies

    1. Good question. But you need to transfer saliva in some way to infect. Which you do when you cough. It will be a saliva shower out of the mouth and nose. So without a cold, you can absolutely hit babies. But wash your hands before taking them.

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