Heading picture of pertussis toxin structure cartoon and text asking if the viewer has a terrible cough because it might be whooping cough

3D representation of pertussis toxin. 6 protein subunits. One of several toxins produced by B. pertussis. Most lethal in babies. Toxoid form is in all acellular pertussis vaccines. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Takuma-sa

Whooping Cough Information for Sufferers

Also known as pertussis

         To easily return to this site search for “whooping cough website” or remember “whoopingcough.net”          

Whooping cough audios, videos, detailed information, send your comments, questions answered. The only site dedicated to this disease.

Very difficult to get diagnosed.

full face doctor jenkinson whooping cough
Dr Doug Jenkinson

This site is just about whooping cough. It was established and has been active since July 2000.

I am Dr Doug Jenkinson. I have studied whooping cough as a family doctor for over 40 years in Nottinghamshire, England.

You will find the answer to any question about whooping cough (pertussis) here.

It is much commoner than people realise because it gets missed and under-notified.

It is very difficult for doctors to diagnose it because it is a terrible but infrequent cough.

This site helps your doctor to diagnose you correctly when you feel you are disbelieved.

Summary section below. Go deeper via green sub-heading links for more detail

Symptoms of whooping cough (go to main symptoms page)

Summary of symptoms in children over 1 year, teens and adults

It starts with  a bit of a cold and sometimes mild feverishness, often a sore throat and a bit of a tickly cough.

After about 7 to 10 days the cough starts coming in spasms of continuous coughing that may last several minutes.

These paroxysms of coughing usually occur every few hours and there may be little or no coughing between the attacks.

The attacks of coughing may be followed by vomiting or drooling or both. Sometimes after the lungs have been emptied of air from a paroxysm, a deep indrawing of breath causes  a whooping noise from the throat as air is sucked back in.

The number of paroxysms can vary from 5 to 50 in 24 hours. 12 is quite usual.

This can go on for 2 to 6 weeks or more before becoming less severe and slowly fizzling out over several weeks.

Read the Blog “So You Think You Have Whooping Cough”

Summary of symptoms in babies

Babies can get very seriously ill from whooping cough especially if they are not immunised. One in a hundred are likely to die from it despite the best medical care. It is not rare. In recent years about one in a thousand was catching it unless the mother had a pregnancy booster shot.

Babies are too weak to keep coughing so violently and they are prone to not restart breathing after a paroxysm or sometimes just stop breathing instead of coughing. All babies with whooping cough need hospital treatment.

Treatment of whooping cough (go to main treatment page)

Summary of treatment

If it is caught in the very early stages before symptoms are fully developed, in the first 10 days for instance, an antibiotic such as azithromycin can reduce its severity. If given in the incubation period it may prevent it altogether.

The same antibiotic is used in the first 3 weeks from onset in order to prevent spreading it to others, but after this time it is unnecessary and not beneficial.

Babies need to be in hospital for treatment and support and they may need high dependency care.

Cough medicines and inhalers do not help.

Prevention of whooping cough (go to main prevention page)

Summary of prevention

During the incubation period, which is 7 to 10 days, an antibiotic such as azithromycin can prevent it developing.

Immunization is the chief prevention method. The precise programme varies from country to country but always consists of a primary course of three injections at monthly intervals starting at about 2 months of age. Boosters are usually given after intervals of years.

A booster injection in mid pregnancy prevents most cases that would otherwise occur in the the first few months of life, which is the most dangerous age to get it.

Herd immunity is the strongest aspect of whooping cough prevention as it stops it spreading if there are good levels of individual immunity. Individual immunity comes from immunization and occasional exposure to the infection which can boost immunity in those previously immunised without us being aware of it.

Guide to the other material on this site

There are over 30 pages and each one is devoted to a specific topic. You are currently on the Home page which summarises important information. The key pages dealing with this information are Symptoms _______  Treatment _______ Prevention. The use of Antibiotics is covered too and details on Early symptoms. Also very important is how the Laboratory confirms it.

Sounds have a separate page even though they are duplicated on the Symptoms page. Complications is an important page for some and FAQ is useful and direct. The Experiences page can be reassuring for those having a terrible time and wondering if they are the only ones. There is a page devoted to one particularly awful story.

The About page tells you about me and why I can call myself an expert on clinical whooping cough. If you are looking for personal help I can assist on the Advice page. If you are a clinician and wondering about Clinical diagnosis here is the information.

In the Supplements section there is How do you catch it?_____Who catches it?_____ and How effective is immunisation? There are some general Statistics and a Table showing how many cases there are in different countries. Immunisation schedules for the USA _______ the UK _____ and Australia are here.

Understanding of this disease has changed and is discussed on the Modern view page and there is another about whether there has been a Resurgence of whooping cough. News is presented on that page and on another is information on the Keyworth study, the Nottinghamshire village where my research has been based.

You will find many external links too, and of course there is the invitation to email me with your experience or information, always confidential of course.

If you are not sure what you have you may wish to visit the UK’s NHS website on common ailments. Cough is a little way down the page.

The USA CDC website has information on coughs

There is information about whooping cough on Wikipedia


This page has been reviewed and updated by Dr Douglas Jenkinson 20 May 2020