What is a 100 Day Cough?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2018
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A 100 day cough is more commonly known as whooping cough, or pertussis. It is a very contagious infection of the respiratory tract caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It got its nickname because it can last for months. This illness is most commonly characterized by moderate to severe coughing spells, followed by a whooping sound after. Before the introduction of the pertussis vaccine in the 1940s, thousands of people died every year from this condition.

The early symptoms of a 100 day cough are quite similar to those of a common cold. During the first week or two, there is typically a runny nose, low grade fever, and mild cough. After this time, the cough generally worsens, and the patient will usually begin to have violent coughing spells, which often produce a thick mucus. These coughing spells are then generally followed by a whooping sound when the patient inhales. These spells can last up to a minute for some people, and it is not uncommon for lips and nails to turn blue from lack of oxygen.

Infants and young children may have slightly different symptoms. For instance, some may not cough or whoop at all. They may gasp for air, and could possible stop breathing during a particularly bad spell.


The recovery period for a 100 day cough is rather slow. It can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. During this time, coughing spells gradually become less severe and farther apart.

To diagnose a 100 day cough, doctors must first check a patient's medical history and do a thorough physical exam. After that, mucus from the nose and throat is often gathered and sent to a laboratory where it is cultured for the B. pertussis bacteria. Blood tests and chest X-rays may also be necessary.

A two week regimen of antibiotics is often the recommended course of treatment for this illness. Many physicians agree that the best time to administer this medication is during the early stages, well before the violent coughing spells begin, which can shorten the duration of the illness. Starting antibiotics during the later stages of this illness, however, should not be overlooked, as it is believed to stop the disease from spreading.

Infants and young children suffering from a 100 day cough often need to be hospitalized, as they are at a greater risk of developing a more serious illness, such as pneumonia. During the hospital stay, the thick mucus produced by the respiratory system is often suctioned. Breathing is usually monitored, and oxygen may be given, if there are serious breathing complications.

Most physicians will agree that the best prevention for a 100 day cough is the pertussis vaccine. In the United States, this vaccine is usually combined with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines. It is referred to as the DTaP vaccine, and is given in a series of five shots, generally at two months, four months, six months, 15 to 18 month, and before entering school, around four to six years old.


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Post 4

I am 61 years old and was treated for bronchitis, because it can look like bronchitis. I have been coughing for three months. At my last doctor visit I was diagnosed with pertussis and am finally getting better - coughing less and less. Tomorrow is my last day of treatment.

Post 3

My daughter has had this for about a month. She's gone through two bottles of cough meds and two rounds of antibiotics and still hasn't had any relief.

She's' also coughed so hard she threw up. It wakes her up in her sleep. It is very, very hard for me to see her going through this and there's nothing much I can do but keep taking her back to the doctor. She's got a prescription cough med this time so I really do hope that she gets better soon.

Post 2

@donna61--A friend of mine is a pediatric nurse and she has told us mothers of young ones time and time again, that the vaccine known as Tdap doesn't give full protection until the child has had all the boosters. Until then, it is still possible to contract it.

Needless to say, if one child comes down with it we try to keep it from spreading by canceling all play dates until the incubation period has passed.

Also, throughout your life time, there are times when a booster might be necessary. Check with your local health department for this information.

Post 1

Since we have the vaccine for the one hundred day cough, I wonder why we still hear about people coming down with it? A friend of mine had her child immunized yet her son still came down with pertussis and had to be hospitalized. Why does the vaccine not stop it one hundred percent of the time?

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