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Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing spells. Whooping cough can spread quickly from person to person.

Early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold and can last for 1 to 2 weeks. Symptoms may include:

  • A runny nose.
  • A fever.
  • A mild cough.
  • Apnea in babies. This is a slight pause in breathing.

Later-stage symptoms happen after 1 or 2 weeks and can last for 10 weeks or more. Symptoms include:

  • Fits of coughing that are rapid and are followed by a "whoop" sound.
  • Vomiting during or after coughing fits.
  • Exhaustion after coughing fits.

Recovery from whooping cough can happen slowly. The cough becomes milder and happens less often. Coughing fits can still happen with other respiratory infections.

Although whooping cough can occur at any age, it is of greatest concern in babies and older adults. The disease can be prevented with pertussis vaccines.