Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include:
- Runny or stuffed-up nose
- Low-grade fever (less than 100.4°F)
- Mild, occasional cough (babies do not do this)
- Apnea (life-threatening pauses in breathing) and cyanosis (turning blue or purple) in babies and young children.
In its early stages, whooping cough appears to be nothing more than the common cold. Therefore, doctors often do not suspect or diagnose it until the more severe symptoms appear.
One to 2 weeks after the first symptoms start, people with whooping cough may develop paroxysms—rapid, violent, and uncontrolled coughing fits. These coughing fits usually last 1 to 6 weeks but can last for up to 10 weeks. Coughing fits generally get worse and become more common as the illness continues.
Coughing fits can cause people to
- Make a high-pitched “whoop” sound when they are finally able to inhale at the end of a coughing fit.
- Vomit during or after coughing fits.
- Feel very tired after the fit, but usually seem well in-between fits.
- Struggle to breathe.
Whooping cough vaccines are effective, but not perfect. The infection is usually not as bad for people who have gotten vaccinated against whooping cough but still get sick.
In vaccinated people who get whooping cough:
- The cough usually won’t last as many days.
- Coughing fits, whooping, and vomiting after coughing fits are less common.
- Apnea and cyanosis are less common (in vaccinated babies and children).
Recovery from whooping cough can be slow. The cough becomes milder and less common as you get better.
Coughing fits may stop for a while but can return if you get other respiratory infections. Coughing fits can return many months after the whooping cough illness started.
Women should get it every pregnancy, and most adults need it once every TEN years.