Diagnosing whooping cough in its early stages can be difficult because the signs and symptoms resemble those of other common respiratory illnesses, such as a cold, the flu or bronchitis.
Sometimes, doctors can diagnose whooping cough simply by asking about symptoms and listening to the cough. Medical tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Such tests may include:
Jan. 15, 2015
- A nose or throat culture and test. Your doctor takes a swab or suction sample from the area where the nose and throat meet (nasopharynx). The sample is then checked for evidence of the presence of whooping cough bacteria.
- Blood tests. A blood sample may be drawn and sent to a lab to check your white blood cell count, because white blood cells help the body fight infections, such as whooping cough. A high white blood cell count typically indicates the presence of infection or inflammation. This is a general test and not specific for whooping cough.
- A chest X-ray. Your doctor may order an X-ray to check for the presence of inflammation or fluid in the lungs, which can occur when pneumonia complicates whooping cough and other respiratory infections.
- Pertussis frequently asked questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/faqs.html. Accessed Dec. 23, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookid=331. Accessed Dec. 23, 2014.
- Cornia P, et al. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Bordetella pertussis infections in adolescents and adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 23, 2014.
- Jakinovich A, et al. Pertussis: Still a cause of death, seven decades into vaccination. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2014;26:597.
- Yeh S. et al. Bordetella pertussis infection in infants and children: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 23, 2014.
- Yeh S, et al. Bordetella pertussis infection in infants and children: Treatment and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 23, 2014.
- Kline JM, et al. Pertussis: A reemerging infection. American Family Physician. 2013;88:507.
- Tdap vaccine — What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/tdap.html. Accessed Dec. 23, 2014.
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