Suspecting whooping cough


How do you know when to suspect whooping cough?

Parents of teenagers might find this interesting.

When to suspect whooping cough.

The kids will make light of it because they don’t feel particularly ill. However, night time spasms can really disrupt sleep badly with the obvious consequences.

Whooping cough (pertussis) incubates and developes slowly over about 10 to 14 days. It can be that long before coughing starts after symptoms like sore throat or a bit of a cold.

It is just an ordinary tickly cough to start with. Over a few more days it turns into a cough that comes in severe spasms, with not much else in between.

These severe spasms of coughing (sometimes with vomiting, whooping and inability to breathe in, for a short time,) happen up to 20 times a day. They are frightening to the sufferer and anyone who observes it.

Most cases nowadays are in teenagers and adults.

Most people would not be unduly worried if these unpleasant symptoms went on for just a small number of days. Many coughing illnesses seem like this and then start to clear up. Whooping cough will go on for at least 3 weeks as a rule. It can go on for 3 months in bad cases.

If such a cough is still getting worse after choking attacks have been going on for a week then whooping cough should be strongly suspected. Even earlier if there is whooping or vomiting or apnoea (stopping breathing).

There are videos and audios on the symptoms page.

Dr Doug Jenkinson


Retired GP who is an expert on clinical whooping cough

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. T

    I keep on re reading this website. My fully vaccinated children have whooping cough and are not sleeping. I am so exhausted. I wish that whooping cough did not exist.
    Today the urgent care doctor said they could cough for 4-6 months.

    1. Douglas Jenkinson

      I understand how bad it is for you. In my experience children are usually over it after 6 to 8 weeks.

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