What Whooping Cough (Pertussis) is Really Like

child with whooping cough: pertussis

Source: YouTube/Celeste Orgeron

The following is a description I wrote that talks about what it’s like to experience whooping cough (also called “pertussis”). So many people these days have no idea just how bad it is, because for many years, high vaccination rates kept it in check and it was rare. People need to know what it is that they’re bringing back if they refuse to vaccinate where medically able. Please feel free to share this if you want to. It was written to be shared.

I couldn’t be vaccinated due to life-threatening allergy. This meant that I relied on herd immunity, which requires that at least around 90 per cent of the population be vaccinated.

Unfortunately, I contracted and suffered through measles, rubella, chicken pox, etc., but whooping cough was the worst. Many people think that this is “just a cough”. Let me tell you: It’s not.

I was nine years old when I caught whooping cough, and ten by the time I recovered. I was bedridden for around five to six months in total. I spent months of my life in bed afraid that I was going to die, which is quite a lot for a nine-year-old to be contemplating.

The coughing fits were so powerful and so violent, that every time I experienced them, I didn’t know whether or not I would make it. It felt like a combination of having the breath knocked out of me — like being winded — while at the same time feeling as though I were being suffocated by someone I couldn’t see. It felt as though there was pressure forcing inwards on my lungs from front and back, as though I were stuck in between two boulders — one on my chest, and the other on my back — and all of this while violently coughing, and hacking up thick phlegm and fluids. My body was racked with pain from the sheer force of the paroxysms, and it often hurt just to breathe, because it felt like my entire torso was bruised. I actually was bruised — internally.

If this weren’t bad enough, many of the coughing fits — easily more than fifty per cent of the time — were so brutal that I would vomit in addition to everything else. When you’re struggling to breathe, you inhale deeply at the first possible moment — this is where the “whoop” noise comes from, and how whooping cough got its name. The problem here is that after the paroxysms finally subsided and I gasped for air, I would often end up inhaling particles of vomit, which would cause further violent coughing fits as I fought to clear my lungs from yet another thing that should never have been there.

None of this counts other possible complications such as ear infections and pneumonia that may arise. Broken ribs are common due to the force of the coughing, as is internal bruising.

I was nine years old when I contracted pertussis, and this is what I endured. Now imagine a nine-month-old, or a nine-week-old, going through this. It should be easy to see how a baby could die.

And if herd immunity had been in place, I would have been kept safe.

So many people don’t realise that pertussis isn’t “just a cough”. It’s so much more serious than that. Thanks to vaccines, most people have never seen full-blown whooping cough first-hand, and in the rare cases where the vaccine doesn’t provide full immunity, it still greatly reduces the severity and duration of the illness. These two facts alone should encourage people to vaccinate and get boosters, but ironically, they become lax, instead — and herd immunity goes out the window.

Worse is when people assume that simply keeping a sick child at home is sufficient. Whooping cough has an incubation period of around one to three weeks, during which time they have zero symptoms and appear to be perfectly healthy, but they are actually highly contagious and infecting anyone who is vulnerable.

Everyone who is medically able, should be vaccinated. Period. Then we could eradicate these diseases like we did with smallpox.

– Josie Morris

If you want to hear what whooping cough sounds like, here are some videos:




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.