New Health Guide

Whooping Cough in Adults

Oct 13, 2014

Whooping cough is a type of infection that is caused by Bordetella pertussis. This bacterium spreads via contaminated droplets within the air that are produced when you come in close contact with an infected person or when they cough. The bacterium then attaches to the cells lining the airways where they multiply, causing symptoms. To make matters worse, whooping cough is not always detected because its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold and bronchitis.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough in Adults

Usually it will take six to twenty days for the symptoms associated with whooping cough to appear after the Bordetella pertussis bacterium infects a person. This period of time is referred to as the incubation period and after this, the whooping cough will usually develop in multiple stages. Mild symptoms will occur first and then there is a period including more severe symptoms followed by improvement.

Early Stage Symptoms

Adults with whooping cough will show very different symptoms from children. While children frequently produce the “whoop” sound while coughing, this is frequently absent from adults. Adults who develop the condition generally do so after having the common cold or bronchitis. Because of this, the early symptoms of whooping cough in adult are similar to those of the common cold including mild fever, sneezing, dry cough, runny nose and sore throat.

Paroxysmal Stage Symptoms

The next stage is the paroxysmal stage of the whooping cough which includes an uncontrollable and phlegm-filled cough. Severe coughing fits at this time typically last two to three minutes and occur several times within a short period. The paroxysmal cough is frequently followed by vomiting, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling and teary eyes. These coughs usually occur at nightanddisrupt sleep. They can also lead to extreme tiredness as well as a lack of interest in food. In some cases, patients will develop more severe symptoms such as a hernia, rib fracture, or urinary incontinence.

Warning: You should always contact your doctor if a prolonged coughing spell has you or your child inhale with a whooping sound, turn blue or red, or vomit.

How to Deal with Whooping Cough in Adults

While it is common for children with whooping cough to require hospitalization, this is not true for adults. Generally, antibiotics are enough to handle this bacterial infection and the antibiotics will usually last about five days to completely eliminate the bacteria causing the infection.


Antibiotics are very useful at killing the bacteria behind whooping cough and therefore speeding up the recovery process. Sometimes family members are also prescribed the antibiotics to prevent infection. Unfortunately, there are not many methods of relieving the cough and over-the-counter medications for cough tend to be ineffective and therefore discouraged.

Home Remedies for Whooping Cough in Adults

In addition to medication, doctors may recommend that an adult with whooping cough changes certain elements of their diet and lifestyle.

1. Have More Rest. 

Many people find it easier to rest and relax when they are in a dark, quiet, and cool bedroom.

2. Drink More Fluids. 

You should also be sure to drink plenty of fluids such as water, soups and juice. It is especially important to check for dehydration in sick children and signs of this include infrequent urination, crying without tears and dry lips.

3. Eat Smaller Meals

Sometimes having smaller but more frequent meals as opposed to larger ones will help reduce the risk of vomiting after a coughing fit. Additionally try to avoid dairy products and sugary foods as they can lead to increased coughing.

4. Clean and Vaporize the Room

Clean a patient’ room to make sure that it is free from irritants that could lead to coughing spells with particular culprits being fumes from the fireplace and tobacco smoke. Also try using a mist vaporizer as this will soothe the irritated lungs as well as loosen up the respiratory secretions. When using a vaporizer, be sure to carefully follow its directions so it remains clean. If there is no access to a vaporizer, you can temporarily ease breathing and clear the lungs with a warm bath or shower.

5. Garlic Juice

Consuming fresh garlic juice can also help you get over your whooping cough. To do so, extract the juice from garlic cloves by crushing them. Take two teaspoons of the juice twice daily.

6. Honey and Radish Juice

Crush some pieces of a fresh radish, squeezing out a teaspoon of the juice. Then add a bit of honey as well as a pinch of some rock salt to your juice, mixing everything together. Taking this mixture three times each day will help relieve the cough.

7. Ginger and Lemon

Ginger juice helps shorten the duration of your coughing bouts. Take a small fresh ginger root and cut it into thin slices. Then put these slices as well as some rock salt into lemon juice, storing it in a container that is airtight. As soon as a coughing fit starts, suck on one of the ginger slices.

How to Prevent Whooping Cough

The very best method of preventing whooping cough is via the pertussis vaccine and doctors frequently give this vaccine with others that combat additional serious diseases like tetanus and diphtheria.

Age group



Immunity from the vaccine tends to decrease by about age 11, you should have a booster shot at that point to protect from whooping cough as well as tetanus and diphtheria.


Certain versions of the 10-year diphtheria and tetanus vaccine also protect from whooping cough. This vaccine protects from the disease and reduces the risk of transmitting it to infants.

Pregnant women

The CDC recommends that pregnant women have a pertussis vaccine at some point between 27 and 36 weeks into their pregnancy. The protection may last the infant for his first few months after birth.

Infection prevention: To prevent infection, keep the patient in an isolated area until the infection goes away as this helps prevent the disease from spreading. Also be sure to cover your mouth when coughing and wash your hands frequently. Wear a mask if you have to be around others.

For more information about whooping cough such as the symptoms and how it spreads, youmaywatch the video below: