Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. It primarily affects infants and young children but can occur at any age.
The classic symptoms of whooping cough include severe coughing episodes followed by a distinctive “whoop” sound when breathing in. This can cause difficulty breathing and other complications, especially in young or immunocompromised individuals.
If left untreated, whooping cough can lead to serious health problems such as pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, or even death. Therefore early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent these potential outcomes.
Here, we will provide tips for an accurate diagnosis of whooping cough.
Overview Of Testing Methods And Tools
There are several methods available for diagnosing whooping cough:
- Polymerase chain reaction tests
- Serologic assays
- Culture tests
- Direct fluorescent antibody test
PCR tests are the most sensitive and specific method for detecting pertussis DNA in respiratory samples like nasal swabs or throat specimens. On the other hand, serologic assays measure antibodies against B. pertussis in blood samples while culture-based methods use laboratory techniques to grow Pertussis bacteria on special media before testing them via various tools that detect their metabolic activities. .
DFAs directly identify B. pertusiss under a microscope using special stains after it has been present in a person’s body over some time. PCR testing results often come faster than othher testing methods within few hours while culture-based methods take longer althought they give out more detailed information about strains of bacteria than others. Overall no one methodology is perfect; combining multiple approaches might increase diagnostic yield.
Symptoms To Watch Out For
The most common symptoms of pertussis include:
- A persistent cough that worsens over time
- Intense coughing fits followed by a high-pitched intake of breath
- Vomiting after coughing
- Fatigue or exhaustion due to limited oxygen uptake during breathing difficulties
- Post-tussive emesis, where vomit occurs immediately after coughing.
Sometimes the symptoms may appear mild or resemble a common cold in the early stages, making diagnosis difficult.
Use Of Physical Exams For Diagnosis
A doctor can perform various physical exams to diagnose whooping cough accurately. These tests may include:
- Checking for ‘Whoop’ Sound – The physician listens with their ears for the characterstic “whooping” sound while the patient takes deep breaths in between their bouts of prolonged breathing difficulty and continues to record it as they check other features like colour of mucus secretions etc.
- Blood Sample Analysis – They may look for elevated levels of white blood cell counts which tend to spike in Pertain individuals. 
- Chest X-ray – A chest X-ray is not used specifically to diagnose pertussis but rather rule out other possible causes featuring simillar symptoms such as pneumonia, bronchitis etc.
Factors To Consider Before Testing
It’s essential that physicians consider several factors before deciding on what specific test is most appropriate for an individual suspected of having Pertusiss.
The things taken into account are :
- The duration since first onset : Pertussis might be harder tto detect if symptoms have been present too long ago, considered more so when there’s noticeable diminishing intensity and frequency even though its still yet unexpungedor completely healed up.
- If immunization history: Doctors should take note/ question ifthe patient had received vaccinations against pertussis earlier . One should try to confirm whether any vaccines were given at all and how long the effect is supposed to last for.
- If one has been in contact with somebody already known to be suffering from a bout of pertussis or if there is an outbreak occurring nearby. – Then its best parents take special care, try medical healthcare as soon as possible.
Q: What should I do if my lab results are positive?
A: It’s essential to see a doctor immediately after receiving positive laboratory test results for whooping cough so that treatment can begin right away. Prompt antibiotic therapy reduces symptoms duration, prevents complications and helps prevent transmission.
Q: Can you get whooping cough more than once?
A: Yes, it’s possible to contract Pertusiss multiple times over your lifetime even though getting vaccinated may help reduce this risk. . Immunization against Bordetella pertain protect one from moderate-to-severe forms of whooping cough while periodically freshening up immuinisations would cut down on chances of getting infected again.
Diagnosing whooping cough accurately involves considering clinically relevant factors like Immunisation status, potential exposure et cetera, running appropriate lab tests whether culture or serological assays and noting signs during physical examination such as “whoop” sounds emesis or elevated WBC counts. Fortunately timely intervention in the form antibiotics reduces intensity and severity of symptoms and subsequentcomplications arise thereafter thus requiring early detection crucial. 
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 Skoff TH et al. Impact of the US Maternal Tetanus, Diphtheria and Acellular Pertussis Vaccination Program on Preventing Pertussis in Infants Younger than 2 Months). Clinical Infectious Diseases 2020