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Pertussis – causes, side effects and treatments at

Thursday, June 14, 2018 by

Pertussis, also called whooping cough, refers to a bacterial upper respiratory infection. A patient with pertussis suffers from fits of violent coughing.

Whooping cough is named after the distinct sound a person makes when they try to inhale. The “whoop” sound is caused by the inflammation and swelling of the laryngeal structures/voice box, which vibrates.

While the first outbreaks of pertussis occurred in the 16th century, Bordetella pertussis (B. pertussis), the bacterium that causes the infection, wasn’t identified until 1906.

B. pertussis attaches to the lining of the airways in the upper respiratory system and the bacteria releases toxins that cause inflammation and swelling. Individuals often get infected when they breathe in the bacteria in droplets released by an infected person when coughing or sneezing.

Known side effects of pertussis

The side effects of pertussis usually include:

  • Cold-like symptoms (e.g., a mild cough and fever) — These are usually the first signs of pertussis.
  • A series of severe coughing fits — This often continues for a couple of weeks.
  • Vomiting and fatigue — Caused by the intense coughing fits.

Once a patient is infected, side effects may include:

  • Apnea (a pause in breathing)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild, occasional cough
  • A runny nose

A patient’s symptoms will worsen after several weeks. During this time a thick mucus will accumulate in the airways, and it can cause attacks of uncontrollable coughing. Attacks may cause the following side effects:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • A red or blue face
  • Vomiting
  • A “whoop” sound during the next breath of air

Infants with pertussis may have a minimal cough or none at all, but they may have a hard time breathing. In severe cases, babies may even stop breathing.

Body systems harmed by pertussis

Pertussis may cause the following complications in infants and children:

  • Brain damage
  • Dehydration or weight loss — Caused by difficulty feeding.
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Slowed or stopped breathing

While teenagers and adults can recover from pertussis, it may cause the following complications:

  • Broken blood vessels in the skin/the whites of the eyes
  • Bruised/cracked ribs caused by violent coughing
  • Passing out from coughing too hard
  • Stomach hernias

Food items or nutrients that may prevent pertussis

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent pertussis or hasten a patient’s recovery:

  • Garlic — A great antibiotic, garlic can treat pertussis. Garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties that will clear an infection.
  • Ginger — An effective expectorant, garlic has antibacterial properties that help destroy the bacteria that causes pertussis. Garlic can also boost the immune system.
  • Lemon — Lemons contain citric acid that can thin the mucus. The citrus fruit also has antibacterial and antiviral properties that can help fight the infection. It also contains vitamin C that will strengthen the immune system.
  • Raw honey — Raw honey has potent antibacterial, antiseptic, and healing properties. It can kill the bacteria that causes the infection and soothe the infection’s side effects.
  • Turmeric — Turmeric has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It can also strengthen the immune system so the body can fight infections.

Treatments, management plans for pertussis

Treatment for pertussis includes:

  • Antibiotics — Antibiotics can help reduce the severity of the disease’s symptoms and it can also hasten a patient’s recovery. But antibiotics won’t be effective if a patient has had the condition for longer than two to three weeks.
  • Cough medications — Refrain from taking cough medicine unless it is prescribed by a health professional.

Where to learn more


Pertussis, or whooping cough, refers to a bacterial upper respiratory infection. A patient with pertussis suffers from fits of violent coughing.

The side effects of pertussis usually include cold-like symptoms, a series of severe coughing fits, and vomiting and fatigue.

Pertussis may cause complications like dehydration, pneumonia, seizures, and stomach hernias.

Garlic, ginger, raw honey, and turmeric can help prevent pertussis or hasten a patient’s recovery.

Treatment for pertussis includes antibiotics and cough medication.

Sources include:


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