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What Is Whooping Cough?

Allen Dozer, MD
Allen Dozer, MD Photo Credit: Contributed

Recently, cases of whooping cough have been reported in the Hudson Valley.

Whooping cough or Pertussis disease can start just like the common cold, with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and perhaps even a mild cough or fever. However, after a week or two patients begin to experience severe coughing. Whooping cough is highly contagious and is easily spread through coughing or sneezing while in close proximity to others. The illness is particularly dangerous for infants who are usually infected by their parents or older siblings who have not been vaccinated.

If left untreated whooping cough can become a series of coughing fits that can continue for weeks. Whooping cough gets its name from the associated rapid and often violent coughing fits. After all of the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale, a loud “whooping sound” is heard.

The illness is particularly dangerous when seen in infants. While the loud and violent cough may not be present, infants have been known to experience apnea or pauses in breathing as a result of whooping cough. “Infants are most susceptible to the disease and can have the most severe reactions, especially if they have not been vaccinated,” Said Dr. Allen Dozor, Chief of Pediatric Pulmonology at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. The CDC reports that “about half the infants that contract whooping cough end up in the hospital and, that a small percentage even die from the disease.”

“Vaccination against pertussis is the best way to protect children against whooping cough,” said Dr. Dozor. DTaP is the pertussis vaccine designed for babies and children up to 6 years of age. Tdap is recommended for pregnant women, kids 7 of years or older, as well as any adults who didn’t get it as a pre-teen, especially those who will be around infants. “Adults can also be at risk even if vaccinated since immunity can decrease over time,” added Dr. Dozor. “They may need to get a booster shot to increase their immunity especially if they will be around infants.”

For more information visit the CDC at

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