Whooping cough (pertusis) IS going around. It has been discussed here as one of the issues that is prevalent now. It produces a distinctive sound like this:
Hear the "whoop" as the patient tries to draw in a breath because the coughing is so extreme that their oxygen levels get low and the smooth muscle is spasming?
If you or your loved one is making that sound, then yes, you may indeed have pertusis. It is VERY contagious, and so when one family member is treated, then all are treated, because it gets passed around.
See how the patient instinctively creates body language to press towards her chest? She knows that there's a clog there. There is in fact a narrowing of the bronchi, the opening to the respiratory tract with heavy mucus. This reduces the oxygen levels, and so the patient will often get cyanotic (turn blue, often in the lips) because their body is hypoperfussed with oxygen.
Go right away to the doc when it progresses like that!
In any situation where mucus is coming up, then by gently tapping (percussive therapy), the tapping relocates the mucus, and then the weakened patient might cough up the mucus plug and breathe better. Otherwise, you give them an inhaler which opens the airway and reduces the smooth muscle spasm. Giving a cough syrup might help, but you have to give the right kind. An expectorant helps dislodge mucus. A suppressant only relaxes the smooth muscle so they can get relief from a spasm. A lot of cough syrups do nothing to treat the patient, only taste good.
Fix the problem, not the symptom.