WHOOPING COUGH (PERTUSSIS)
Whooping cough is…a highly contagious bacterial infection of the upper respiratory system,
resulting in severe coughing spells. It is easily spread from person-to-person through coughing or
Whooping cough symptoms…begin 1 to 2 weeks after exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms
usually last 6 to 10 weeks and can occur in three stages.
Stage 1 - Begins with cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, and a mild
Stage 2 – Cold-like symptoms fade, but the cough gets worse. The cough will change
from a dry, hacking cough to bursts of uncontrollable, violent coughing with vomiting
and gagging. Coughing may become worse at night. Between coughing spells, the
infected person often appears normal.
Stage 3 – Infected person will improve and gain strength, but cough may become louder
and sound worse.
Whooping cough can…cause complications that may be severe. It can be a critical illness in
children younger than 1 year of age, especially in premature babies or those with lung disease. Adults,
as well as children, are susceptible to whooping cough.
Whooping cough is treated by…antibiotics, to prevent the spread of infection. Over-the-counter
medicines have not been shown to help relieve symptoms. People in close contact with infected
person usually need to be treated with antibiotics. Efforts should be taken to minimize an infant’s
exposure to children and adults with cough illness.
Whooping cough is prevented by…keeping immunizations up to date. Children should receive
Pertussis vaccine at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age and a booster dose at 4 to 6 years of age. The routine
immunizations DTaP(for children) and Tdap (for adolescents and adults) protect against whooping
cough. It is also helpful to wash your hands frequently and keep children away from people who have
a bad cough. Adults with routine contact with infants less than 12 months of age should receive a
For additional information, please visit www.tazewellhealth.org, www.cdc.gov/pertussis or