A whooping cough infection is suspected based upon a patient’s symptom profile. Suspicion may be increased if there is a local outbreak. Laboratory testing will confirm the diagnosis. Tests may be performed using nasal secretions during the first four weeks of symptoms, or blood tests may be used after the second week of illness.
Complications from whooping cough can be quite serious. Less severe complications include:
Among infants younger than 1 year with whooping cough, about 50% are hospitalized for severe complications. Of those hospitalized, 1% will die of complications. The most common complication in hospitalized infants is pneumonia, affecting approximately 1 in 5. Other severe complications in infants and children include:
Treatment with antibiotics should be initiated as soon as possible and may be prescribed before laboratory results are available if the symptoms strongly suggest a whooping cough infection. Antibiotics given within the first two weeks of a whooping cough infection may reduce the severity of the illness. If whooping cough treatment begins during the late phase, after the onset of a severe cough, antibiotics will not alter the course. However, it is important to treat whooping cough whenever it is diagnosed. Infected individuals are no longer contagious after 5 days of appropriate therapy.
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