So You Think You Have Whooping Cough?

whooping cough logo
Well there is a very good chance you are correct.

To have got as far as suspecting it you will either have had to do a bit of research, which has made you suspect, or you have been in contact with whooping cough and you recognise the distinctive choking cough.

Compare yourself (or your child) with the sounds you can listen to on the symptoms page.

What should you do next?

Should it be whooping cough then the world needs to know about it because statistics are kept and they help develop strategies to minimise the impact of this disease on human beings.

If you have had a CHOKING cough for two to three weeks then a doctor should suspect whooping cough and arrange a test to confirm it. That test could be an antibody test for pertussis toxin antibodies or PCR if it is three weeks or less from the start of symptoms.

If you have had it less than three weeks a doctor who agrees with the possibility of whooping cough may arrange a PCR test which is usually positive in the early stages. 

Keep away from other people as far as possible.

Especially unimmunized babies and pregnant women in the last trimester.

Remove yourself from company if you are going to cough. Do it outside, or in a remote place, or into a large tissue which you should then dispose of safely.

You can pass it on for 4 to 5 weeks from the start of symptoms unless you have an antibiotic to kill the bacteria, which be in as few as three days.

Whooping cough sufferers who are still infectious should be given an antibiotic such as azithromycin.

Use your smartphone

Doctors make a diagnosis based on the symptoms you describe and the abnormalities found on examination. The problem in whooping cough is that there are NO abnormalities to be found, UNLESS there is video evidence of how severe the coughing spasms are. Only you or a close friend can provide it! 

You can describe how bad it is, but unless you are Oscar standard your doctor will suspect you are exaggerating.

100 days is a long time.

Whooping cough goes on a long time. If your cough has gone on for 30 days your doctor should be rather concerned and arrange a test.

If it goes on for 60 days and your doctor does not agree to an antibody test then there would need to be a good reason.

If it goes on for 90 days without a test for whooping cough then a very good reason is required.

Subclinical cases.
For every clear case there are probably many mild cases that are impossible to recognise. These can be found and confirmed by PCR testing. Whether it is done depends on the enthusiasm and curiosity of your health care advisor and sometimes your willingness to pay for testing.


To control this disease properly, subclinical cases need to be identified too.


Retired GP who is an expert on clinical whooping cough

This Post Has 2 Comments


    I do believe I have whooping cough
    Going on to my 5 week of being ill
    First two weeks was coughing and vomiting
    3rd week the severe cough kicked in and believe me it was terrifying gasping to breathe followed by the whooping sound then vomit this has continued for a further two weeks and still happening.
    Been to my doctors on numerous times but they won’t listen at all
    I just don’t know what to do I’ve had 3 doctor sick notes and am due back to work in few days but I can’t clearly go back to work like this
    Can any one help am desperate

    1. Douglas Jenkinson

      Why not have a look at where you can find the printout for doctors to help your doctor to help you. You will also find advice there to video one of your attacks on on a smartphone. Tell your doctor you have self diagnosed whooping cough, show the recording and try to hand over the printout. In most countries doctors are legally obliged to notify whooping cough officially. That often means getting a test done. You could also try informing public health yourself. If you have had it for over 3 weeks you should not be infectious any more. Depending on what your work is you might be able to return if there is somewhere you can get to for privacy when you have an attack. Best of luck!

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