WHAT IS
WHOOPING COUGH?

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious disease that affects the lungs.

Image: Whooping cough at home

This potentially debilitating cough starts out small with bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. Anyone exposed to the bacteria can get sick.

Nearly a quarter of reported whooping cough cases in 2018 were in persons 20 years of age and older

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS
OF WHOOPING COUGH?

Whooping cough is scary because many people who spread it may not know they have it.

Image: Whooping cough symptoms
  • Symptoms change as the disease progresses, and it looks different in children and adults.
  • Early symptoms can start out like those of a common cold, with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and a mild cough or mild fever.
  • After 1-2 weeks, the cough worsens due to thick mucus in the airways. This can result in bursts of rapid coughing. Patients may turn blue from a lack of oxygen.
  • Teens and adults may have a prolonged cough that prevents them from sleeping.
  • Children, and infants especially, may appear very ill, vomit following cough fits, and appear exhausted. Infants younger than 12 months of age may not have the strength to have a whoop. In infants, cough may be minimal or absent, with the main symptom being temporary pauses in breathing.

WHAT DOES WHOOPING COUGH SOUND LIKE?

A whoop sound may occur between coughing fits as the patient tries to take in breaths. Click to listen.

Adult

Child

Whooping cough sound provided by PKIDs.

61%

of adults with whooping cough missed an average of 10 workdays*

*In a study of 203 adults with whooping cough.

WHO’S AT RISK?
NOT JUST KIDS.

People of all ages can get whooping cough, but infants are most at risk for severe illness. The disease can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications in the very young. Children, adolescents, and adults generally have milder symptoms than those in infants. Even if you're an adult, the impact of whooping cough can last for months.

Image: Who is at risk for whooping cough?

Even if you’ve had whooping cough or received a DTaP vaccine, any adult 19 years of age or older should be vaccinated with Tdap if they haven’t been vaccinated before.

The most common complications from adults with whooping cough include:

  • Weight loss
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Syncope (fainting)

~34%

of babies under the age of 12 months with whooping cough needed to be hospitalized*

*Based on a clinical study where the source of the infection could be identified.

IS WHOOPING COUGH CONTAGIOUS?

The germ that causes whooping cough spreads easily through coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.

Image: Is whooping cough contagious?

Persons are most infectious during the first two weeks after the cough begins. During this time, a person with whooping cough can infect as many as 12 to 15 other people.

Whooping cough is known to spread within households. Babies often catch it from siblings, parents, grandparents, and other members of their extended family.

There were 15,609 reported cases of whooping cough in 2018, with cases reported in every single state.*

*Cases reported to the CDC by state health departments.