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Massachusetts woman breaks her rib from coughing so hard

A woman coughed so hard she broke a rib, a new case report reveals after doctors feared she had flu.

The 66-year-old, whose name is unknown, sought medical assistance when she struggled to shake off a dry cough that had plagued her for two weeks.

She complained of pain in her right side and had a bruise running the distance from between her rib cage and hip.

CT scans revealed this was because she had a displaced fracture of her ninth rib, meaning the rib had broken and the two ends separated.

The 66-year-old, whose name is unknown, coughed so hard she broke her rib (pictured is the bruise she suffered following her coughing fit)

The break had also caused a hernia in her chest wall, according to report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The woman, from Massachusetts, was initially diagnosed with a viral respiratory infection with medics believing she had flu.

But her symptoms failed to improve and she returned to her doctor. 

Swabs showed she tested positive for whooping cough – despite having been vaccinated against the killer bug eight years before.


Whooping cough is rarely serious in adults but it can be particularly dangerous for young children.

It is so called because of the whooping sound youngsters make when catching their breath between coughs. 

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways.

It causes repeated coughing bouts that can last for two to three months or more, and can make babies and young children in particular very ill.

Whooping cough is spread in the droplets of the coughs or sneezes of someone with the infection.

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. 

The first symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a cold, such as a runny nose, red and watery eyes, a sore throat, and a slightly raised temperature. 

While it can be an unpleasant illness for anyone, whooping cough in infants can be extremely serious — it is fatal for one in every 500 babies who develops it. 

The woman was treated with antibiotics and made a full recovery after undergoing surgery.

The new case report comes just days after doctors told the story of a British man who ruptured his throat when he tried to stop himself from sneezing.

The 34-year-old, who was not named, was rushed to A&E in excruciating pain after he held his nose and closed his mouth to try and stifle a sneeze.   

He was kept in hospital for a week and had to be fed through a tube, doctors at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust wrote in the BMJ Case Reports.