Whooping cough is one of the so-called childhood diseases, but adults can also contract it. Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium (bordetella pertussis) that settles in the airways of the infected person and secretes a toxic substance (toxin) that causes the symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms of whooping cough
The symptoms of whooping cough are cold-like with cough and sometimes mild fever. You can also become swollen around the eyes and pale. Bleeding in the whites of the eyes also occurs and is harmless.
The cough can be particularly troublesome at night and in connection with meals. Sometimes the cough can be so troublesome that children vomit or lose their breath and turn blue in the face.
The infection is spread as a droplet infection during coughing. The disease is highly contagious and the risk of infection persists for up to six weeks after becoming ill. The disease is especially dangerous for infants who are at risk of permanent damage caused by lack of oxygen in connection with cough attacks. Unfortunately, deaths also occur. For adults, the symptoms are milder and often resemble a prolonged upper respiratory tract infection.
If antibiotics are used early in the course of the disease, the symptoms can be alleviated and this also reduces the risk of the infection spreading. It is mainly children younger than 1 year, or children with basic diseases that increase the risk of complications, who receive antibiotic treatment. Infected people who come into contact with young children are also treated to reduce the risk of infection.
Vaccine against whooping cough
Vaccine has been part of the Swedish childhood vaccination program since 1996. Prior to that, there was a vaccine which, due to suspected side effects and lack of effect, was discontinued in 1979. Children receive a total of five doses of the vaccine while growing up.
A booster dose of pertussis vaccine protects for five to ten years, after which the protection decreases.
The pertussis vaccine used for refill doses is included in a triple vaccine together with the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine. A refill dose is recommended every 20 years. It is especially important to review your protection if you are planning a pregnancy. This is to protect the newborn from the disease.