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How does whooping cough (pertussis) affect the body?

The bacterium Bordetella pertussis infects the respiratory tract and prevents natural defense systems from removing germs. This causes mucus accumulation, which leads to continual coughing and sometimes vomiting. The bacterium also populates the breathing tubes in the lung, inflaming and narrowing them. The characteristic "whoop" cough is due trying to inhale through the narrow, inflamed airways. The inability to draw breath may cause a red- or blue-colored face and exhaustion.

Continue Learning about Whooping Cough

Can I Develop Whooping Cough (Pertussis) as an Adult?
Can I Develop Whooping Cough (Pertussis) as an Adult?
People of all ages can get whooping cough (pertussis). Watch Darria Long-Gillespie, MD, explain how symptoms can be different for adults and children,...
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Can the whooping cough vaccine cause health problems?
The Woman's Hospital of TexasThe Woman's Hospital of Texas
Before the 1990s, the pertussis immunization was part of the DTP vaccine, which contained the whole ...
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Can I develop whooping cough (pertussis) as an adult?
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You can develop whooping cough, or pertussis, as an adult, although the symptoms may be different. I...
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.