Whooping cough (pertussis) causes, symptoms, remedies and new potential treatment

Whooping cough (pertussis) causes, symptoms, remedies and new potential treatmentWhooping cough (pertussis) is a contagious respiratory infection that causes severe hacking, coughing, followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound when the person takes in their next breath.

Prior to the development of the vaccine, whooping cough was common among children, but now cases are limited to children who are too young to receive the vaccination.

Potential New Treatment for Whooping Cough Developed by Texas Engineers


A research team from the University of Texas and Synthetic Biologics Inc. worked together to develop two antibodies that can treat or prevent pertussis. Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that affects millions of infants worldwide.

Development of the antibodies has been in progress over the last five years, and the new treatments will be used as anti-pertussis injections. In preclinical testing on animals, the antibodies provided short-term immunity and treatment to accelerate recovery.

Potential new treatment for whooping cough developed by Texas engineers Whooping cough can lead to life-threatening symptoms and painful fits of coughing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over 16 million cases of whooping cough occur each year, and it is still a leading cause of death in infants in developing countries.

Jennifer Maynard, Ph.D., a chemical engineer in the Cockrell School of Engineering, said, “In the developing world, an estimated 200,000 babies die a year, and that’s where we think we can have a really big impact. If we can get our antibodies to these high-risk infants, we could potentially prevent the infection from occurring in the first place.”

Pertussis toxin is excreted in infants with whooping cough, which damages the immune system and raises the child’s white blood cell counts dangerously high. This causes cells to block blood flow to the lungs.

The new antibodies neutralize the pertussis toxin, which prevents it from binding to healthy cells and stops it from reaching its target within the healthy cell.

Co-author Dr. Michael Kaleko said, “We believe the key to preventing death is reducing the white blood cell load, which becomes extremely elevated during infection. If we can bring the count down or keep it low, the sick child may have a much better prognosis.”

Dr. Maynard concluded, “We want to make sure that our research is really going to have impact. Most of the babies who get sick haven’t been immunized, so we hope to provide the immunity that they are lacking.”

Pertussis Causes and Symptoms

Pertussis is caused by bacteria; when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria can spread onto objects or other individuals, making it highly contagious.

Symptoms of pertussis can take up to 10 days to appear, and at first, they may be mild. But over time, they will become more severe. Initial symptoms of pertussis are similar to a cold, but they turn into the hacking cough with “whoop” breathing as they progress. Symptoms of pertussis include:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Coughing that provokes vomiting
  • Coughing that causes a person to be red or blue in the face
  • Coughing that causes extreme fatigue
  • High-pitched “whoop” sound when inhaling

Pertussis Treatment

If coughing is severe, an infant may be hospitalized due to the higher risk of complications presented in this age group. If keeping food and liquid down is a problem, nutrients may be given intravenously to keep the person hydrated. Pertussis can be taken care of at home for older children and adults.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to help speed up recovery by fighting the bacteria caused by the infection. Because pertussis is highly contagious, family members may be given preventative antibiotics.

Unfortunately, over-the-counter cough medications have little to no effect on the cough itself, so they are not recommended.

Home Remedies for Pertussis Cough

Eucalyptus Oil

One of the best remedies to treat respiratory tract disorders, eucalyptus oil, has mounting evidence on the effectiveness against sinusitis, bronchitis, and pharyngitis.

Some experts believe that it can also help to prevent whooping cough and soothe the symptoms. Mix a few drops of the oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, and apply it topically to the back or chest. It can also be added to an oil diffuser, or a few drops can be put into steaming hot water for inhalation.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is always a good idea to help boost the immune system and prevent illnesses such as whooping cough. Studies have shown that whooping cough treatment can prove to be effective if you meet the daily need for vitamin C through natural resources.


Humidifiers are essential for a dry throat caused by whooping cough. These electronic devices can help to add moisture to the air, which can help soothe dryness in the throat. It can help to eliminate any inflammation or irritation in the throat and clear the respiratory tract for easy breathing.


Garlic contains allicin, a compound that has been found to have antibacterial properties. To help combat whooping coughing bacteria, mix 2-3 garlic cloves with raw honey and consume 2 to 4 times a day for effective results.

Turmeric Milk

Whooping cough prevention requires antimicrobial power, and turmeric milk is a great way to get protection. Mix half a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a cup of hot milk and consume daily before bed.


A compound found in ginger called gingerol is the natural expectorant that possesses potent antibacterial properties that can help combat whooping cough. Add fresh ginger when cooking or make ginger tea to reap the antibacterial properties.

Green Tea


The antioxidants found in green tea can help to prevent whooping cough. In particular, catechins have potent antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. It is the perfect warm drink to consume when suffering from whooping cough.

Gargling With Salt Water

For cough and colds, gargling with salt water can be highly advantageous. It is an excellent natural remedy for pertussis and is easy to take. Simply add one tablespoon of pink salt or table salt into a glass of hot water and gargle at least once daily.

The best way to avoid pertussis at any age is to get vaccinated and receive booster shots overtime to ensure your body has the antibodies it needs.

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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