Something that many adults do not know is that whooping cough is a common reason for prolonged coughing. European studies show that about 25 percent of all cases of prolonged coughing in adults are due to whooping cough.
Prolonged cough can be due to a variety of things. Colds and infections but also chronic lung diseases such as asthma and COPD can affect our respiratory tract and cause a prolonged cough.
Whooping cough is considered a child disease with a very high infectiousness. The bacteria are transmitted through the air via drip contamination from people who cough. Older children and adults can also become ill despite being vaccinated against whooping cough. The vaccination does not provide a lifelong or complete protection. Also, the protection you get after having whooping cough is not complete, as it decreases with time.
In our neighboring country, Norway therefore recommends that all adults replenish their protection against whooping cough every ten years, as the number of cases of whooping cough has increased in recent years.
Whooping cough – when adults are affected
In adult and older children, whooping cough manifests as a stubborn and elongated cough. No less than 25 percent of all long-term coughing in adults is considered to be due to whooping cough. The cough lasts for a long time, on average 1-2 months, it arrives attack-wise and is particularly troublesome at night. Vomiting or tingling can occur, as well as complications such as pneumonia, sinusitis and ear inflammation.
But the cough does not have to be typical whooping cough – adults and previously vaccinated children often get a milder disease but they can still be contagious and pass on the whooping cough bacteria which can be dangerous, especially for the young children. Adults who have not filled up their basic protection against whooping cough vaccine can thus be a source of infection and transmit whooping cough to others.
Risk groups at whooping cough
Those most susceptible to being infected are people who have not been vaccinated and children under six months who have not been able to get good protection from the whooping cough vaccine. For these children under one year, whooping cough can be serious. They may need hospital care.
Again, whooping cough can cause ear infections, trachea that can last for a long time, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and, in the worst case, death.
Filling of whooping cough vaccine is recommended
Whooping cough is one of the more common childhood diseases in the world. Since 1996, all infants in Sweden have been offered vaccine against whooping cough. The vaccine is given at three, five and twelve months of age. After that, topical doses of whooping cough vaccine are recommended. This also applies to adults because they lose immunity to whooping cough in adulthood.
Boostrix is a vaccine that is used as a filling dose for children from the age of 4, adolescents and adults to prevent diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.
- For children born before 2002, it is recommended that at 10 years of age they receive a refill dose at the same time as the vaccination against diphtheria and tetanus.
- For children born in 2002 and later, it is recommended that at five years of age they should receive a supplement dose of whooping cough vaccine at the same time as the vaccination against polio, diphtheria and tetanus. Thereafter, a further dose of pertussis vaccine at 14-16 years of age is recommended when vaccinated against diphtheria and tetanus in school.
- In Norway, the National Institute of Public Health recommends that all adults replenish their protection against whooping cough every ten years as the number of cases of whooping cough has increased.