What Is 100-Day Cough and How to Ease the Symptoms

Although pertussis, also known as 100-day cough or whooping cough, is prevalent now, reports suggest that the first pertussis epidemic happened in 1578 in Paris. Recent reports indicate that each year, 24 million people are affected worldwide by a 100-day cough, and more than 160,000 people die due to this infection. Fortunately, there are some ways that can help prevent the spread of pertussis.

What is a 100-day cough?

Pertussis is commonly known as 100-day cough or whooping cough. It is a bacterial infection that affects the respiratory system and has symptoms such as cough and fever. The word pertussis means a violent cough. Pertussis can also affect animals (pets) and is known as a kennel cough.

Is it contagious?

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory system infection. It is spread from an infected person to another person through respiratory droplets which are tiny, often invisible drops of fluid from the nose or mouth when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Therefore, covering the nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing helps prevent the spread of the disease.

Causes of 100-day cough

This particular respiratory infection is caused by Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis bacteria. Once whooping cough bacteria enter the body, they attach to the lining of the upper airways and release toxins. These toxins cause inflammation and damage to the airways.

Risk factors of 100-day cough

Certain risk factors associated with pertussis:

  • Age. For instance, pertussis, a childhood illness, usually affects infants and young children. However, infections in older children and adults have been widely reported in recent years. In older children and adults, the symptoms are less severe.
  • Immunity status. Those who have not had the vaccine have a higher risk of complications.
  • Settings. Although the reasons are unknown, pertussis outbreaks are more common during the summer. These outbreaks commonly occur in settings where people gather, e.g., schools, workplaces, or senior homes.
  • Pregnancy. Pertussis during pregnancy causes concern as it increases the risk of infection in the newborn. Since they are not immunized, newborn children have the highest risk of hospitalization and death due to pertussis.

Whooping cough symptoms

Whooping cough symptoms typically begin 5–10 days after contact with the infectious bacteria and then progress through three distinct stages:

  • Cold-like symptoms
  • Coughing fits
  • Gradual recovery

However, symptoms can vary widely from person to person. For example, people who have received a vaccine may have mild or no symptoms for the entire illness. Additionally, many babies may not cough, while older children and adults may cough without the classic whoop sound.

Stages of whooping cough

As mentioned earlier, whooping cough symptoms appear in three stages. This disease runs a chronic course and each stage lasts for a few weeks.

In general, the stages of whooping cough are as follows:

Stage I (Cold-like symptom stage)Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, a mild, occasional cough, low-grade fever, and apnea — which is a temporary pause in breathing observed in babies. Patients are contagious during this stage.Up to two weeks
Stage II (Coughing fits) Severe episodes of rapid, intense, uncontrollable cough; coughing worsens with time; whooping sound at the end of coughing fits as the person inhales deeply; difficulty breathing during cough fits; vomiting during or after coughing fits; and feeling very tired after coughing fits. Up to 10 weeks
Stage III (Gradual recovery)Coughing fits and other symptoms gradually disappear. However, the cough may return if a person gets another respiratory infection.Two weeks– months

Treatment for 100-day cough

Depending on the stage of the disease and the patient’s overall condition, the treatment may include isolation, oxygen, antibiotics, and nutrition.

Treating adults with 100-day cough

Early diagnosis helps in treating the disease, managing symptoms, and speeding up the recovery process. However, diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma can make early diagnosis challenging. Consult your doctor early on if you have had exposure to the disease.

Treatment often involves antibiotics such as erythromycin, which can help make symptoms less severe and stop them faster. Antibiotics are most effective during the first one to two weeks of illness (or before coughing fits begin), so early treatment is critical. In late stages, taking antibiotics can help prevent the spread of the infection to others.

In addition to antibiotics, treatment for whooping cough may include the following:

  • Supportive care, such as getting adequate rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Hospitalization in severe cases, especially for babies or if someone is having difficulty breathing
  • Oxygen administration

Treating children with 100-day cough

The course of vaccines for pertussis are administered between the ages of 2–18 months. As such, children younger than one year are not fully vaccinated. They are at a greater risk for disease complications and death. For such incompletely immunized children, doctors may advise hospitalization in the early stages to ensure proper treatment.

Similar to adults, children may be given antibiotics, plenty of fluids, and oxygen. Although it is not a part of standard care, if a child is in critical condition, doctors may recommend steroids. Similarly, blood transfusion is not a routine care but may be necessary in complicated situations.

Home remedies for 100-day cough

Home remedies, specifically for whooping cough, are not yet scientifically studied. However, whooping cough runs a chronic course. Here we list some home remedies for chronic cough. These remedies are backed by science and can be used safely. All remedies are suitable for children over one year and adults. For children below one year, consult your doctor before you try any home remedies.

  • Using humidifier. Humidifier helps in loosening the mucus and offer temporary relief.
  • Honey. Research has shown that honey is effective in nocturnal cough in children.
  • Proper rest. Adequate rest is essential as rigorous physical activity may trigger a bout of cough.
  • Diet. Diet needs to include plenty of fluids such as water, juices, soups, and fruits such as melons. Eat small portions of food frequently to reduce vomiting.

How to prevent the spread of whooping cough?

Fortunately, there are ways to protect oneself and others from getting whooping cough, including:

  • Vaccination. Two vaccines are typically given in the United States: DTaP or Tdap. DTaP protects babies and young children from whooping cough and is routinely administered as a series of five doses, starting at two months of age. Tdap protects adolescents and adults. Both vaccines also protect against diphtheria and tetanus.
  • Avoiding contact with sick people. It's best to avoid close contact with anyone sick with whooping cough until they’re no longer contagious.
  • Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Anyone sick with whooping cough should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Researchers suggest using a tissue to cover the mouth and nose and then disposing of the tissue immediately.
  • Staying home if sick. People with whooping cough should stay home and away from work or school until they are no longer contagious.
  • Regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces helps prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Practicing good hygiene. Regularly and thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water, especially after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Experts recommend scrubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative.

When to see a doctor?

Early diagnosis is important as it facilitates treatment and prevents the spread of the disease. If you have had exposure to the disease and are experiencing cold-like symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to rule out a 100-day cough.

Doctors typically conduct a physical exam and ask for a detailed history of signs and symptoms. For example, doctors ask questions such as — how long has the patient experienced this cough? Did anyone else at school/work have a 100-day cough? Additionally, lab tests such as blood work and mucus swabs may be necessary to determine the diagnosis and further treatment.

Potential complications

Since the 100-day cough runs a long course, patients may get secondary infections during this time. For instance, in young children, secondary pneumonia is common and may cause death. Furthermore, some children may experience encephalopathy (brain infections) and seizures. Due to the constant and violent cough, some patients may develop an inguinal hernia or rupture in the diaphragm.

Other conditions it can get mistaken with

Due to its various stages and variations in symptoms, whooping cough can be mistaken for other conditions.

Croup vs. whooping cough

Both diseases affect children and can be difficult to distinguish. In croup, the cough is harsh and sounds like barking. The disease has a shorter course and lasts for 3–10 days. In whooping cough, severe coughing is followed by a whooping sound. The disease runs a chronic course of approximately 100 days.

Asthma vs. whooping cough

Asthma and whooping cough both last for several days; however, their causative factors are different. Asthma is often triggered by allergies, environmental factors such as smoke, or exertion whereas whooping cough is a bacterial infection.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vs. whooping cough

Similar to the whooping cough, RSV infections are also characterized by severe cough and fever. However, unlike whooping cough, RSV infections may also show symptoms such as rapid breathing and wheezing. RSV infections last for a short duration (3–7 days), while whooping cough runs a chronic course.

To summarize, whooping cough is a childhood illness, but adolescents and adults can also be affected. Consult your doctor in the early stages to start the treatment plan. Take the appropriate precautions to prevent the further spread of the infection. Follow the vaccination schedule recommended by your doctor or your county health officials.


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