How was your recovery from Whooping Cough?
June 18, 2012 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Question about typical recovery pattern from whooping cough. If you've had it, you can probably help me out.

So - I'm a 45 year old guy, and I have whooping cough. I've had it for about 3 weeks. I've been through the 5-day Z-Pack anti-biotics.

And here's the thing: About 5-6 days ago I started to feel significantly better. I started coughing only lightly, although still several times a day. My other symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, etc) disappeared completely. I basically started to feel better - with an inconsequential lingering cough. I even played a two-hour tennis match a few days ago.

Then last night all of my symptoms started to come back! I'm now coughing almost (not quite) as badly as I was at it's worst point. My nose is running again. It's like I got better - then it just returned.

I called a nurse and she said that I probably don't have it again (because the anti-biotics are still technically in my system, and because I got my booster shot last week). I can't get in to see a doctor for the next few days.

My question: Is this a typical recovery pattern? Or has it come back? Or is something else going on? If you've had whooping cough, did you recover linearly or in an up and down wave?
posted by crapples to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I don't think I had whooping cough (was vaccinated last year), but I had bronchitis starting around May 9, and even though the gross phase has been over for a few weeks, I've had a recurrence of a dry cough with a bit of a runny nose. I saw the doctor a couple of times and had chest x-rays. Like you, I also was prescribed a Z-pack which I finished up.

It's not inconceivable that now you just have a cold. A lot of people around where I live seem to be getting sick for a few days, then they get better, and then they go downhill a bit again. I have to think also that I might have become allergic to something; it's been a very warm winter and wet spring in New England and who knows what evil pollen lurks around here right now.

Keep tabs on your temperature and if you feel drastically sicker, give the doctor another call. The day I saw the doc, I was running a 102-degree temperature and didn't even know it.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:33 PM on June 18, 2012

I had whooping cough and it took me almost 8 weeks to shake off the coughing. I'd had it a few weeks before I went to the doctor, he said by that point antibiotics really wouldn't make any difference as the bacteria is gone from your system by then and basically your body now has to heal itself.

I took over the counter codeine/paracetamol tablets on a recommendation from my doctor (I was in Australia at the time not sure if you can get them without prescription in the US) to help suppress the coughing urge as I was having trouble working and sleeping. If the coughing is still bothering you see your pharmacist and maybe they can recommend something, or get your doctor to phone in a prescription. And for the love of god if you are taking codeine for any length of time take a stool softener with it.

Luckily even without antibiotics all the kids in my life were immunized and didn't get it.

I am not doctor, but the CDC site backs up what my doctor said.
posted by wwax at 1:46 PM on June 18, 2012

I had whooping cough a few years ago. Like you, I took the 5 day z-pack and stopped getting worse pretty quickly. But the coughing-to-the-point-of-puking and nonstop wheezing persisted for, I'd say, 2 months. I tried various OTC and prescription cough suppressants including codeine and nothing worked to keep the cough down. Basically, I just avoided moving, talking or exerting energy as much as possible. Then one day after about two months I just stopped coughing and that was the end of it.

The return of the runny nose may mean you've just caught a cold in addition to everything else. Your body is pretty run down at this point, so it's possible you're just picking up other garbage along the way.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:17 PM on June 18, 2012

Did you test positive for pertussis antibodies? Because my husband and I were both diagnosed empirically with whooping cough last year and given antibiotics, which didn't help, and then our test results came back negative (a week after he'd finished a Z pack and I'd finished a Z pack and a course of amoxicillin).

Apparently we had something viral that just looked like whooping cough. The thing that helped me was Tessalon during the day and codeine cough syrup at night to keep the cough down, but it took several weeks for me to shake it. (The husband got better in about two weeks, but he has an iron constitution.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2012

My colleague had whooping cough this spring (he was required to tell me by the state). He told me it took him many many months (at least 3!) to feel back to normal. And, like you, he told me that along that slow path to recovery he would at times feel totally normal.....go out for a run.....and then it would feel like it all came back. I guess (I am not sure if this is true) that the bacteria creates a toxin of some sort that takes a long time for your body to dispel...long after the critters that caused it are dead.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:03 PM on June 18, 2012

Mr Grue and I both had it last year, and he was sicker for significantly longer than me, probably something like 6-8 weeks. We both felt like it just took ages to feel stronger and found that we'd feel fine(r), and then go for a walk and just be wiped out. I agree with the suggestion that you might have caught something else on top of the whooping cough, but I have no useful suggestions beyond what you probably already know. Good luck!
posted by grueandbleen at 4:28 PM on June 18, 2012

In answer to sidhedevil: Yes, I'm officially diagnosed. And I like what grue said about going for a walk, then feeling wiped out. Maybe I'm exerting myself too much. I went for a long walk last night and started to feel much worse soon after coming home. (However, it's weird that my tennis match didn't really affect me the same way).

Maybe it's just a weird sickness with an uneven recovery pattern. I'm glad to hear that at least a couple of other people started to feel better only to later feel worse.

(But I'm not glad to hear time frames like 6 and 8 weeks tossed around!)
posted by crapples at 4:43 PM on June 18, 2012

I hate to tell you this, but pertussis is called the "Hundred Day Cough" for a reason. Prolonged, uneven recovery times are common. Sorry! People have made good suggestions for managing the cough above.
posted by vetala at 5:59 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vetala beat me to it: I thought the phrase 100-Day Cough described exactly how long the cough lasted. I was never officially diagnosed. I had had a cough for ages, and the doc said he wouldn't bother running the tests because at that point I wasn't contagious and antibiotics wouldn't help.

My cough was so bad I would leave meetings to go out into the hall or bathroom. Cough suppressant (the prescription kind) helped a bit.

Note: I'm also in Portland, Oregon, where parents are increasingly fond of not vaccinating their kids.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:09 PM on June 18, 2012

Being "blessed" with anti-vaxxer parents, I consequently contracted pertussis as a kid. Although it's hard to recall precisely at this point, I think it took 3-4 months to completely go away. It was really miserable. I hope you recover more quickly!
posted by Estraven at 9:34 PM on June 19, 2012

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