While call brings changing leaves and cooler temperatures, it is also a time when whooping cough infections rise. According to the press release from the American Lung Association, a vaccine is available for the disease, but only 30% of US adults have received it over the last ten years. 

Those living with COPD or asthma are more likely to have an increased risk of complications if diagnosed with the infection. Those more at risk of infection need to know their available resources to stay safe and healthy. Whooping Cough, also referred to as Pertussis, is a highly infectious respiratory illness. While it is considered a childhood illness, it can still impact adults. The vaccine is recommended for all ages, especially high-risk adults and children. Booster shots are recommended for teens and adults since vaccine immunity decreases over time. 

The illness affects the body from bacteria known as Bordetella Pertussis attaches to hairlike structures in the upper respiratory system called cilia. The bacteria release poison in the body that damages the cilia. Bordetella Pertussis is inhaled by an infected person who is coughing or sneezing. The illness swells the airways and makes it harder to breathe. Complications for infants as the disease progresses can be severe. Some risks include a collapsed lung, pneumonia, brain bleeds, heart failure, and even death. Older adults and kids can result in vomiting, dry heaving, and loss of bladder control, possibly leading to rib fractures. 

Whooping cough symptoms can start in 7-10 days and depend on age. The illness typically starts as cold-like symptoms like fever, tiredness, and runny nose. After about one week, those infected can develop a harsh cough that sounds like a ‘whooping’ sound, which happens when all the air in the lungs is gone. Lips or areas around the lips can even turn blue after a coughing spell. Coughing can be more frequent at night and can last for months if left untreated. 

Symptoms are less severe for adults that were vaccinated as children. It is rare to make a diagnosis during the early stages. Doctors can run tests with a nose and throat swap to test for the bacteria. A blood test may be suggested if the patient’s blood count is low. Talk with your healthcare provider to get vaccinated against whooping cough.