Whooping Cough

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough, or pertussis, mainly affects infants and young children. Caused by a bacterial infection, it is associated with paroxysms (intense fits or spells) of coughing that end with the characteristic whoop as air is inhaled.

  • Whooping cough caused thousands of deaths in the 1930s and 1940s, but, with the advent of the vaccine, the rate of death has declined dramatically.
  • Whooping cough usually affects children younger than 1.
  • Seventy-five percent of children affected are under age 5.
  • Thirty percent of children affected are under age 1.

How we care for whooping cough

The Respiratory Diseases Division at Boston Children’s Hospital is made up of clinical pulmonologists, pulmonary nurse specialists, physical therapists and social workers who work together to care for our patients. Two physicians are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deal with emergency situations. We have a nursing line to help answer questions, and a prescription line to provide prompt medication refills.