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PORTADAS WEB_tosferina
Magda Gallardo Melero
Pediatric visits
30 Mar 2024
2 Min
Health tips

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis (or whooping cough) is a respiratory infection that spreads very easily through the air. It can affect all ages, but the most vulnerable are children and babies, and it is characterized by causing intense dry coughing.

Causes of Pertussis

Pertussis is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis. It spreads from one person to another through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, as doing so releases small droplets of particles containing bacteria, which spread in the air and are inhaled by people nearby.

It is important to note that babies are at higher risk of contagion, illness, and complications. The most vulnerable are babies under 6 months who are not fully protected and children between 11 and 18 years old whose immunity has started to fade.

Symptoms of Pertussis

The symptoms of pertussis typically appear between 5 and 10 days after being in contact with the bacteria that cause the disease. Pertussis is not the same in infants, adolescents, and adults. Generally, pertussis presents milder symptoms in adolescents and adults compared to babies and children.

Once infected, it has three clinical phases in which different symptoms develop:

  • 1- The catarrhal phase: the first symptoms appear, which may be similar to a common cold, with nasal congestion or runny nose, sneezing, occasional mild cough, and little to no fever. It usually lasts one to two weeks and is a highly contagious phase.


  • 2- The paroxysmal phase: the disease reaches its maximum intensity, presenting a cough that increases in frequency, intensity, and severity, causing very strong coughing fits that can last more than a minute (and worsen at night). After these coughing episodes, many children produce a very characteristic high-pitched sound (like a “rooster”) when they breathe in. Often, these attacks lead to vomiting, exhaustion, or difficulty breathing. In severe cases, babies may stop breathing (apnea), turn blue, and have difficulty breathing. This phase usually does not cause fever (or very little) and can last from 1 to 6 weeks.


  • 3- The convalescent phase: the recovery phase of the disease usually lasts between 2 and 3 weeks. Coughing fits gradually disappear, and the child begins to regain strength and health.

Diagnosis of Pertussis

In the presence of symptoms compatible with the disease or if there has been contact with a diagnosed patient, it is necessary to seek medical attention. If the patient is a baby or child and has difficulty breathing, it is essential to take them urgently to the hospital or pediatrician, as this disease in babies is more serious and may require hospital treatment.

The doctor will ask questions about the child’s medical history and perform a complete physical examination. In addition to symptoms that may suggest pertussis, the doctor may perform a PCR test to extract a mucus sample, in search of the bacteria that cause it, and thus rule out other diseases.

The multidisciplinary team of specialists from the Pediatrics Unit of the CreuBlanca Maresme Hospital will evaluate your child’s symptoms to reach an accurate diagnosis and provide comprehensive and personalized treatment tailored to the child’s needs. Make an appointment.