Convulsive Cough In Children

One of the most serious types of coughing of a child is convulsive cough. Vaccination prevents the illness along with its severe forms. On an annual basis, there are thousands of children who experience this medical condition, and worldwide this infection is seen as the nr. 1 cause of death from the preventable diseases through vaccination.

Convulsive Cough In Children

Table of Contents

What Is Convulsive Cough?

Convulsive cough, also known as whooping cough, is one of the most serious diseases of childhood. It`s characterized by a serious and persistent cough that is very contagious. That`s why, the child needs to be isolated so he won`t contaminate other children or babies that weren`t vaccinated.

Vaccinated can make an easy form of whooping cough. Other children who make convulsive cough can make a secondary infection, like bronchitis or pneumonia.

Causes & Risk Factors

  • Causes: It`s determined by bordetella pertussis, which locates in the airways, multiplies in a large number and produces lesions in the local mucosa. These lesions determines paroxysmal cough, favoring expulsion and transmission of the infection.
  • Risk factors: Infants and small children who aren`t vaccinated represent the most exposed and susceptible categories to the disease.
  • Transmission pathways: Teenagers and adults represent an essential source of transmitting the pathogen agent, which can be made directly (respiratory) or indirectly by contact with objects or secretions that were recently contaminated. The infection has no seasonality, but it`s more frequently during the summer or autumn. The contagiosity of the disease is very increased in families (around 80% – 90%). The patients are contagious for around 3 or 4 weeks.
  • Epidemiological data and etiopathogenic mechanisms: It`s a specific human illness that can be found all over the world. The immunity to the disease isn`t permanent!

Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms of this illness occur in 3 stages, especially in small children. Adults and older children are likely not to follow these stages.

In phase 1, the signs are similar to a cold. The child sneezes, his eyes are watery, has a runny nose, a medium cough, and sometimes makes a moderate fever. These signs last from a couple of days up to 2 weeks. This is also the most likely stage in which the illness spreads.

In phase 2, the signs improve, but the cough may get worse. It will transform from a mild and dry cough into a severe cough that can barely be controlled. The child may cough so much that it seems he may no longer be able to breathe.

In phase 3, the signs stay, but the child may feel better. However, the cough may worsen. It may appear and disappear for weeks. This stage may last longer if the child has never been vaccinated. Adults and adolescents usually experience easier symptoms compared to small children. Their severity depends whether or not the person was vaccinated and on how much time it passed since vaccination. The symptoms generally last around 6 and 10 weeks, but sometimes it may take even longer. – Click here!

Laboratory Investigations

Hemoleucograms are modified with the presence of leukocytosis, sometimes at levels that seem alarming, and absolute lymphocytosis.

Inflammatory probes are also modified. The isolation of the pathogen agent from sputum, from nasal or pharyngeal exudate is rather difficult. Direct immunoflorescenc can be made for the recognition of bacterial antigens on the sputum smear as well.


Clinical diagnosis is supported by: anamnestic data (absence of vaccination in children over the respective age), clinical data (with paroxysmal cough + 2 weeks, due to a lack of impairment of the general condition, which doesn`t improve based on some serious complications), epidemiological data (contact with adults/teenagers/children who cough persistently and characteristically).


Among those you would want to avoid are encephalopathy and bronchopneumonia. The first one might be accompanied by various chronic conditions, like hearing loss or unilateral paralysis.


For a proper diagnosis, the doctor will need to examine the child`s medical history, make a body consultation and send nasal and larynx mucus samples for analysis. These samples will be analyzed to find any possible cultures of Pertussis bacteria. Also, there may be made X-ray ultrasounds on the chest.

Convulsive cough is treated with antibiotics combined with a medication that could ease the cough. Although the antibiotic doesn`t treat the child`s cough, however, it may reduce its severity and make it less contagious. This is of big importance if there are more children in the family.


Prevention consists in vaccination starting with ages of 2, 4, 6 months, 1 year and then at 4 – 6 years.

Children of 7 to 10 years who didn`t finalized the primary schedule will receive a dose of diftero-tetano-pertussis vaccine.

All infants need to vaccinated, including the ones diagnosed with HIV, to whom the 4th dose will be administered between 1 and 2 years. The vaccine is only delayed for people with acute febrile diseases.

Medical Recommendations

It`s essential for the parents to visit their family doctor or pediatrician.

Drugs – corticotherapy, antitermic (only if necessary), antitussive and macrolide antibiotics.

How Do We Help the Child?

The episodes of coughing can be tiring for the child and might make him feel quite sick. The presence of one of his parents is essential for him. Put him in your lap and keep him a bit bent forward. Keep near you a bowl in which he can vomit, if necessary. Be careful to clean the bowl as best possible with hot water to avoid spreading the disease.

  • If he coughs and vomits often after eating, try to give him frequent a small meals, if possible, after an access of coughing.
  • Try to distract his attention or make him occupied. He`ll certainly have fewer episodes of coughing if his attention is distracted.
  • Don`t let him get tired or get irritated too much because this way another episode of coughing can get triggered.
  • Sleep in the same room with the child, so you can be with him if an episode of coughing starts at night.
  • Don`t let anyone near your child! Don`t give him antitussive drugs!

Note: If you notice a blue color during an episode of coughing of your child, call your doctor immediately! – Click this page!


First of all, you should keep in mind that you need to contact the doctor immediately as you suspect your child may experience convulsive cough.

  • If your pediatrician prescribes your child a liquid antibiotic, always use a teaspoon or standard oral syringe. This way, you`ll make sure your little one will get the right dose.
  • Even if the signs of the disease disappear in 2 or 3 days, it`s essential to continue the administration of the drug to the child the entire time for which it was prescribed.
  • Interrupting the treatment with antibiotics before the complete eradication of the germs may stimulate the occurrence of resistant strains to that particular treatment.
Image courtesy of e-hospital.co.uk

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