Symptoms of Whooping cough

November 12, 2012

Symptoms of Whooping cough

Whooping cough can affect people of all ages but is most common in children. The symptoms of whooping cough tend to fall into two stages.


The infection known as whooping cough is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. It has an incubation period of 6-20 days so symptoms wont appear immediately after being infected. The symptoms of whooping cough are known to come in stages with the milder symptoms first, followed by the more severe symptoms. After the second stage, the individual should begin to show signs of improvement.

The first stage

The early or first stage symptoms of whooping cough often resemble those of a cold. This stage can last for as long as two weeks before getting worse.

  • A runny or blocked up nose

  • Sneezing

  • Sore throat

  • A dry and irritating cough

  • A raised temperature

  • Watery eyes

  • A general feeling of being run down

The second stage

The second stage is also known as the paroxysmal stage and is during this stage that the identifiable coughing begins. Typical symptoms of whooping cough during the paroxysmal stage includes:

  • Intense coughing fits, that often bring up thick phlegm

  • A sound resembling a “whoop” at each intake of breath in between coughing. This symptom occurs more in adults than in children and infants

  • Vomiting after coughing, which occurs more often in children and infants than in adults

  • Fatigue including a reddening of the face due to excessive coughing

Coughing fits can last for varying amounts of time but normally average between one and two minutes. However, fits can occur very close together making it seem longer and exhausting the individual. The number of fits experienced every day also varies greatly. The symptoms of whooping cough in this second stage last for at least two weeks in most cases but can go on for longer. Even with treatment the symptoms can be hard to relieve and the cough will often stay with the individual long after the bacteria has been cleared from the body.

Whooping cough in children and infants

The symptoms of whooping cough can appear very scary in children and infants. Babies rather then making the “whoop” sounds as they inhale are more likely to gag or gasp for air. Death from whooping cough is a possibility as it can cause them to suddenly stop breathing. Slightly older children may look as though they are choking during a coughing fit and can become blue in the face. Breathing will resume but it can appear very frightening to an onlooker. The symptoms of whooping cough are generally less severe in adults and are more likely to resemble a mild respiratory infection such as bronchitis. It can take as long as 3 months for coughing fits to completely stop.

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