Patient Comments: Whooping Cough (Pertussis) - Symptoms

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Comment from: Francesca, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: October 30

Well, it is 1:46, and I can't sleep. I had a terrible what I call episode tonight, throwing up gasping for air, and urinating all over myself, because my main goal is just trying to gasp for air. Today I visited the hospital, where it was very apparent the diagnosis I had was whooping cough. It is not fun, can't eat, I'm exhausted and I am petrified to open my mouth, because I find anything can trigger it. I don't know how I contracted it, was at the doctor's three times in one week just being put on stronger and stronger medicines, because I had a big trip to Brazil that was approaching in less than a week. Hence when I got there it was bad, and hospitals in Brazil, well, let's say are nothing like American hospitals, but they did their best. Bottom line is if you are an adult, just go and get vaccinated, trust me this is terrible, not being able to gasp for air is the worst feeling. If you are sick and have a terrible cough ask the doctor to test you for it. I find what works for me is my breathing treatments that I do at home, as well as not having anything too cold or too hot, only room temperature. Don't eat late, and don't eat heavy, that will set it off. That's all for now, I hope you feel better.

Comment from: Robbie, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: October 27

I have just been confirmed as having whooping cough. I first went to the general physician (GP) and was told I have viral laryngitis. I went back to a different GP and I had googled whooping cough. I couldn't breathe on a night, so bad I thought I would die so I wouldn't even go to sleep. I would sit up night after night on pillows to not sleep but would doze off and wake up choking with terrible stridor noise. The new GP said he would test with a blood test when I suggested it to him and thankfully he listened, and he rang up to tell me I was positive. I've never had anything like it in my life and everyone on here will know it's very hard to tell people how bad it is. The night times are horrendous and the awful burping of air after the fit is weird. Also clogging in the throat whilst drinking is something new as well I never did before. I do think that any cold we get will bring it back on again.

Comment from: SockFiddler, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 29

My 10 year old son and I both have whooping cough, and I was expecting things to clear after taking antibiotics for a few days. However, after a week of the medicines, we're still both feeling incredibly poorly. I called the doctor this morning who said that antibiotics will stop you from being infectious, but won't do anything to stem the progression of the disease; miserable. Just to let you know that whooping cough is a notifiable infectious disease (in UK and Europe, probably in US and Canada, though I don't know). This means that, by law, suspected cases have to be reported to a local public health unit. Now we're deep in the throes of miserable coughing and inability to sleep, I can see why notification is required. Be responsible with your illness (doctors too!) and make sure it gets reported to the authorities. It's the only way they can track outbreaks and monitor immunization effectiveness.

Comment from: HillbillyFairy, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 21

The whooping cough started as a mild cold and within a few days I got a fever and slept for 2 days, when I wasn't too busy hacking up my lungs. I has severe cough for weeks, although the flu symptoms left within a week, leaving mild fatigue and cough behind. I began working out again, and it was very difficult at first. Now almost 2 months later, I am feeling strong but cough is still here. Cough is much less severe but husband is a doctor and insists I get an x-ray tomorrow.

Comment from: Mongi, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 29

I contracted the '100 day cough' in September 2014. It started with what I thought was a mild case of flu, which because is worse with fevers and chills, but man-o-man, I'd swop the flu for whooping cough any day. I was fortunate in that my coughing subsided at night or when lying very still, but day-time cough and gasping for breath was terrible, constant, non-abating, spasms of coughing, resulting in bruised ribs on two occasions. My physician finally strapped my ribs which helped a lot. I also produced copious amounts of thick saliva. My spasms lasted for 111 days! Now, some 4 months later, I'm still coughing from time to time, but thank goodness the constant spasms have gone and the cough is bearable. I am now producing a lot of phlegm (as opposed to saliva). To this day my general physician (GP) will not call it whooping cough, just refers to it as the 100 day cough! In the earlier stages my GP advised a lung function test to rule out asthma, as well as a chest x-ray, both of which were clear, but strangely never suggested a blood test for pertussis. It's a really nasty disease and I hope I never have to endure it again!

Comment from: Bitsko, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: October 12

A couple days before this latest cold my 11 month old grandson coughed in my open mouth. The little petri dish is trying to kill me. He's been vaccinated for whooping cough of course, but that just means his case is mild. He can still catch, incubate and spread the disease. And he's still coughing 3 weeks later. Not too bad, but enough to make him gag and throw up once in a while. Vaccines don't always prevent illness. They may just reduce the severity. If you spend time around young children get the vaccine! This is nature's way of clearing out the old folks to make room for the young ones, I think.

Comment from: Marriott, 7-12 Female (Caregiver) Published: June 28

I have just spent 4 weeks with my daughters coughing and struggling to breathe at night. So bad that they look like someone is strangling them as they gasp for breath. After 2 hospital visits and numerous doctor visits, I suggested we check for whooping cough and they were both positive. Be aware if you or your kids have been coughing for an extended period of time and ask your doctor for the swab. It is easy and painless and worth the time.

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Comment from: Siggy, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 30

Pertussis is apparently everywhere and adults need a booster vaccine. I was sent home from the emergency room with an antibiotic after coughing for 5 weeks but only a low grade fever. I was sent for an EGD to check for gastric reflux cough and it was negative. No doctor checked for pertussis. Have coughed with mucus for 8 weeks and will see a pulmonologist next week. I still cannot believe how sick I have been. I still cannot believe all the doctors never checked for whooping cough and I have never been offered a vaccination or been advised to get vaccinated!

Comment from: Anne, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 15

I am female, 63 years of age and have had pertussis 3 times! I had it during the 80s and the 90s and again in 2011. Each time I broke numerous ribs. I coughed up blood and I had bleeding nose and vomiting. The one in 2011 also caused both lungs to partially collapse as was seen on x-rays. I also have auto immune disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Sjogren's syndrome, both of which make me susceptible to various infections. Maybe this is one of the reasons I have had pertussis 3 times.

Comment from: denise, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 17

I have been sick now for 3 weeks with whooping cough and at night I can't sleep. My back hurts and my ribs also hurt. I cough for over an hour some times.

Comment from: sveety, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: September 24

I went to the emergency room (ER) in ambulance exactly on May 30, 2014 with a horrible cough that would not let up. They did all breathing tests and sent me home. I followed up with my regular doctor for 1 month, still with same cough that would not let up day or night and since I smoke, they said it was a smoker's cough. After going to several pulmonologists I was finally diagnosed with pertussis – whooping cough! I'm finally on right antibiotics and here I am mid-September, almost 4 months later with that horrible cough again.

Comment from: Mother of six, 65-74 Female (Caregiver) Published: August 13

I got whooping cough about the first of June. I have never been so sick in my life. I tried to tell them it was whooping cough (WC), they stated it was my GERD. My coughing was like all of you, but I also started to wheeze. My face and teeth and throat hurt so bad I couldn't stand it. My throat would have a wet gurgling sound. The problem with WC medication is it is not effective against it after the first week. I have had it June 2 to now Aug 14.

Comment from: Linz, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: February 18

My youngest, 3 year old, and 11 year old daughter both were diagnosed with whooping cough. I started them on Z-Pak. Two days after they are diagnosed, I started with the symptoms. My two kids are doing better, they are about 3 weeks into it. Only major coughing fits now are during the night but unfortunately I am coughing to the point that I have now pulled muscles under my ribs. It hurts to move, sneeze or cough.

Comment from: frustrated mom, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: February 18

I am a mother of six kids (all boys). My 15 year old came down with a bad cough. I took him to the pediatrician where he was put on an antibiotic and a rescue inhaler due to it being diagnosed as an infection. I soon came down with the flu like symptoms and immediately went to my asthma doctor where I was told that it had to do with the bad air quality and to double up on my medication. Three weeks later and three fractured ribs, a culture was done. Results came back as being pertussis. Our whole family was put on antibiotics, even the ones with no symptoms. This is a terrible illness. Advice I would give would be to watch for the very specific cough and get to the doctor as soon as possible. Also, remember there is great power with knowledge. Keep your hands clean and avoid being around people that are sick.

Comment from: mocha, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 28

My husband had whooping cough 15 months ago. He is very healthy, runs 32 miles a week at 64 years of age. In his words, it was the sickest he has ever been in is life. I had to take him to the emergency room twice because he lost his breath for over minute and started to turn blue. It is the scariest thing I have ever seen him experience. He learned how to breathe while coughing (breath through your nose). He had to sleep sitting up for the first month. Once asleep, the attack would wake him and he couldn't breathe. Frightening. It has been 1.6 years and he still has trouble with his lungs but nothing like it was. He is back to running and it has not affected that.

Comment from: R2, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 30

I'm 47 and just diagnosed with whooping cough. I share my symptoms so that if you have a child and/or are an adult, you'll know to get medical attention. It does start off feeling like cold/sinus infection; however, the incessant coughing is the key thing to watch and especially at night. This thing has an alarm that seems to go off when the sun goes down and your endless night of coughing begins. You sit up to try to avoid that awful feeling in your throat and the constant need to cough. Your whole body is tight. Your head hurts constantly from the strain as well as chest & stomach muscles. You're exhausted because you can't sleep all night and finally when it lessens it's an hour before daylight. If you're coughing continuously all night long and struggling to catch your breath, go to the doctor and ask them to look up the symptoms of whooping cough to see if you match. Even if you're an adult! Save yourself and possibly the life of a child because if you have it you are highly contagious and this can indeed put a child in danger.

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Published: April 12

I am 43 years old and am 5 weeks into whooping cough. It started with a phlegm-filled cough for two weeks, and then I got a low-grade fever and felt extremely unwell, and the nights became almost unbearable - my throat was really sore and I coughed and coughed all night, getting no sleep and then falling asleep exhausted about an hour before time to get up - dreaded waking up as just as I opened my eyes I would cough so violently for about half an hour that I would be sick. I noticed I was very sensitive to bright light during this period and my eyes didn't want to be open and watered a lot. Now a bit better, but whooping suddenly without warning and not being able to breathe and then vomiting during the day which is really awkward. Dread coughing as my back is so painful I really think I have done something to my discs from coughing. I can't move at night lying in bed because of my pain in lower ribs of my back. Lots of phlegm in my throat still and a spasm in my throat every so often. Not fun, wouldn't wish it on anyone!

Comment from: Faye, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 31

I developed what I believe was whooping cough in September 2009. After nearly 3 weeks feeling like I was going to die from coughing constantly - getting almost no sleep and gasping for air 24/7. The GP told me I "just had a coughing virus." He did prescribe antibiotics which I didn't start taking for another 3 weeks as I thought the cough elixir would fix it (eventually). It didn't of course, but when I finally took the antibiotics the cough cleared and I started feeling somewhat well again. GP didn't bother doing lab tests, but I'm convinced it was whooping cough. Was vaccinated as a child but was nearly 59 when the cough started, so immunity had obviously mostly worn off by then. Had another much milder dose of the same again in October 2010.

Comment from: Michael, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: January 31

I was in Europe for three weeks in November of last year, the last week was in Switzerland and France, it was very cold and I was not dressed for it. On the plane home I started sneezing and was for the entire flight, as anyone would I thought a cold was the reason. After a week or ten days I started to cough uncontrollably every morning and night. Night time was the worst and as usual I was stubborn and didn't go see the doctor, by the time I did see the doctor (six weeks) I was one big infection, ears, stomach, throat and my body was breaking down, soreness, weakness and chronic pain in my back and legs. After the antibiotic run I felt better but not good. It's been eight weeks now and I'm just now starting to feel normal with a long way to go. The doctor did not say whooping cough, I was shown this web site, the symptoms and effects are exactly what I have been going through. I am warning everyone to be on the lookout for this illness.

Comment from: n d, 55-64 Female (Caregiver) Published: January 20

I was born and raised in Ireland in 1945. there was no access to the whooping cough vacanation at that time in Ireland,so i remember our I was born and raised in Ireland in 1945. There was no access to the whooping cough vaccination at that time in Ireland, so I remember our family of 6 children all having the whooping cough at the same time. I do not remember how old I was at the time. Do not know or hard to imagine how our Mother coped with the ordeal. Our first child was born in Ireland. Our Doctor advised against the pertussis vacation due to my husband's history of allergies and hay fever. Our second and third Children were born in the U S. We asked the doctor to omit the pertussis for 2nd child. When the 3rd child came along we omitted the pertussis from the 1st injection but included it in the following 2. However in about 1997 they got the whooping cough.I started bringing them to the Doctor who tried to insist that they were allergic to our cat. I told the doctor that it was the whooping cough, but he said it was not possible. I knew the whoop sound. I must add the third child who had some vaccinations got a milder dose than the other 2. I then asked the Doctor if it was ok for them to continue their swimming lessons which they were enrolled in that summer. He assured me that swimming would be a benefit in their condition. My poor little daughter of 8 years was trying to swim a lap across the pool. She got a spasm and then vomited in the pool. The swimming has to stop .The water had to be disinfected. She was so embarrassed. We did not go back to the pool for the rest of the summer.

Comment from: Jordan, 3-6 Female (Caregiver) Published: August 08

My 4 year old son was diagnosed with pertussis, but not until I insisted. This thing seemed to be masquerading as MUMPS! So, I understand the doctors initial misdiagnosis. When I took him in, he had slightly swollen cheeks, fever, cold symptoms and cough. Was sent home with a diagnosis of mumps but came back insisting it was not because the cheek swelling was only for 1 day but the persistent cough would not go away! Whole household put on antibiotics and lab test was positive for pertussis. I have heard old stories where one disease will trump another one and stop it in it's tracks. So maybe he did have mumps but was put in check by pertussis. Wish it was other way around. He NEVER had a whoop! However, he would cough till he vomited. That is the key for me because the docs try to tell you that "kids do that" when they cough sometimes. Ahhh, Noooo!!! This child has had every cough and cold known to man and I never saw him vomit when he coughed. Till now.

Comment from: medmom, 7-12 Female (Caregiver) Published: June 21

My 12 y.o. son had pertussis. Told his doctor of history of being in airports and New Orleans 14 days prior to symptoms (which is the incubation period of pertussis). However, he never had the cough in the office (they had air conditioning). Several days later, the E.R. picked up on the history and diagnosed him. (Pertussis very prominent in the south.) ONE TIP: Air conditioning seems to help the coughing.

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Comment from: Jj, 45-54 (Patient) Published: January 02

I started with a hoarse voice and then coughing for two weeks. I was feeling very ill. Then I was coughing, gasping for air and being sick. My granddaughter had whooping cough diagnosed and was in the hospital as she was only 8 weeks old when she contracted it. I assume I got it from her. It really is very frightening and nothing seems to relieve the symptoms.

Comment from: serenagatabela, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: January 02

I am so glad to find your website, it makes me think that I am not alone and that my doctor doesn't know how to diagnose whooping cough. I am on my fourth week of whooping cough. After returning to the doctor twice I mentioned to him that even with erythromycin twice a day (for bronchitis) I was getting worst. The coughing was so violent that I felt like I was going to pass out. So I suggested whooping cough (After reading the symptoms). The doctor increased the antibiotics to four time per day. The cough is better but I feel very weak. Thanks for the posts.

Comment from: Art Teacher, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 13

I was recently diagnosed with Clinical Pertussis after being sick a previous week with Bronchitis. My test was negative, or under the 20 percent bacteria radar. I was put on Z pack, after an initial round of prednisone and amoxicillin. It's a very frustrating disease because it wanes back and forth. One day I'm good, and the next day I am exhausted from fits of coughing. My State of Minnesota has an enormous amount of cases, and I am amazed there is not a push for immunizations for people who deal with the public! How many adults are aware they can get Whooping Cough even when immunized as a child? I didn't know this, and I am a teacher. I have stayed home for two weeks. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Comment from: Thewhooper, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: October 17

I am a 30 year old woman residing in Maine. I too was treated for whooping cough but resulted negative. I have all the symptoms of a whooping cough, including the incredibly sore lower ribs in the back, the coughing so hard you vomit and throat spasms. I gasp for air so badly I pass out. It's been a month and a half. I thought I was getting better for about a week in between. I was horribly wrong. I have taken the z-pack antibiotics, the inhalers and Tessalon pearl for cough, nothing has helped, I don't wish this on my worst enemy let alone a child.

Comment from: MizLiz, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: August 15

We visited relatives in Iowa. All it took was for me to sit across from said relatives, and I was done for. By the time the symptoms started showing up, we were on our way back home to Washington state. Fever, chills, clogged airways, uncontrollable coughing, and generally feeling lousy. We start to get better, and then it starts up again. At times I could barely breathe, my airways were full of a thick sticky mucous. I tried some over the counter pills that were supposed to thin the stuff and help cough it up. Worked pretty good. Anyway, we're not coughing (much) any more. We're both 70 years old, and of the old school that says 'you'll feel better tomorrow' which seems to be true.

Comment from: macdandaddy, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: April 11

I had a somewhat normal cold for 2.5 weeks. I was finally feeling better and went to the beach and exerted myself. The following morning, and next, I had a very sore throat with uncontrollable coughing. I had limited appetite, but didn't get out of bed for four days. Cough syrup was a must and started to help on day 3-4-5-6-7. I got up on day seven, went outside for 10 minutes in the sun, and then went back to bed. I didn't sleep during the coughing attacks, and had to move to a different location to lay down or sit down. On day eight, my appetite was normal, I was taking Menthol cough suppressants and oral anesthetic, which helped a lot. I took 75 of those through nine days. I started taking antibiotics on day six, twice a day, not knowing what I had, or if they were necessary. Now after about a month, my chest seems to be almost clear. My coughing at night is 85 percent less, but still not confident of my health.

Comment from: kat, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: September 07

With whooping cough, first I had chills and fever, got a really sore throat next and lost my voice. Now voice is back mostly, but there is a tickle in my throat that, if I try to cough up, I go into an uncontrolled fit of coughing until I gag. It is worse at night. I was so sure it was strep throat, because these symptoms are so like when I had that, but the doctor tested for that, and then said it wasn't that this time, but probably whooping cough. I am on antibiotics now. He said strep doesn't usually have a cough with it, but in my experience, it absolutely did, just like I am coughing now, but I guess the lab wouldn't lie. I really hope the antibiotics work because I am getting no sleep.

Comment from: hoschkabosch, 19-24 Male Published: April 11

Whooping Cough is being misdiagnosed. You are responding to exposure from flame retardants in your mattress, or for a child the foam in their baby crib. These chemicals are highly toxic, they also off gas and form particulates in the air much like asbestos. They will clog your mouth, throat and lungs. I know this from experience stupidly buying a foam mattress this year. The best thing you can do for a child is take them out of the room, and away from the crib. Their clothes will have trapped the particulates so buy them new clothes or thoroughly wash their old clothes with a soap based detergent. The body will kick these particulates out of the system, but they build up anytime you are exposed to them. Having them outside breathing fresh air is the best way to accelerate it. If they cough, don't let them wipe it back onto themselves they will re-cover themselves in it. Very important, when they are outside, keep them out of direct sunlight and heat, that will make the symptoms severe, for me it produced terrible fatigue so watch out if the child is falling asleep. If you're an adult, you're about to find out you have a massive issue on your hands. The particulates won't be cleaned or broken down. I have spent all year trying to clean my room, to absolutely no success. Best thing to do is the let the room settle, close the windows and door and leave it be for a few days. Wrap the mattress in something thick, throw it away. Good luck with the rest. Obviously a lot of these cases are happening in people who were vaccinated and children whose respiratory systems are acutely susceptible. I am surprised no one else is realizing this.

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Comment from: maybebaby, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 07

Severe coughing fits, ending in a distinct whooping sound. Very hard to stop and catch my breath. Cough was so hard, my ribs hurt. Headache due to persistent cough. Started off with symptoms resembling a cold. After the cough set in. I was extremely lethargic and could hardly muster the strength to leave my bed.

Comment from: Karen, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: July 13

I was 32 and six months pregnant when I got whooping cough. I contracted it from my 4 year old. I was so sick for over 7 weeks. I coughed until I was sick. I had zero energy. When I woke up each morning my lungs felt like steel. They didn't seem to expand which would start the painful process of the coughing for the rest of the day. I lost 8lbs in my 6 months of pregnancy. I really didn't fully recover until the baby was born. Since that time I have a phobia of anyone coughing around me. Horrible thing to have. Especially when pregnant.

Comment from: ella, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 02

I also currently have whooping cough. I went to the doctor four times and then insisted they test me, I even told the doctor that it was in my child's school and was just told "no, no, not whooping cough" so suffered so long till in the end I was vomiting after coughing and almost passing out I knew it was not normal! They aren't keen to test and make you suffer!! If you think you have it, INSIST on testing and get the antibiotics, so you lessen the symptoms. I have a weak immune system so the full blown version is really like hell. Tell the doctors what to do, if you've read the symptoms here and you can't breathe when you cough then that says it all.

Comment from: LauraJean, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: February 18

I had a small cold that cleared up on its own quite well, however the cough lingered. Knowing most coughs do, I stuck it out for 2 more weeks. My doctor told me it was just my asthma acting up, and to just take my inhaler more. Last night I was sent to the ER. Inhaler wasn't helping couldn't catch my breath, coughing so hard I would vomit. EVERYTHING I HAD TOLD MY DOCTOR AT HOME. My oxygen level was at 100%. My chest x-rats came back clear. I started to go into a coughing fit. The nurse immediately grabs a mask, and says she will e back, she needs to find something. If you have never had the test for whooping cough, I hope you never have to. A metal q-tip is inserted into your nose, and down your throat, so you cough. They started me on antibiotics while there, and had me inform my work to close and disinfect. Absolutely miserable. Apparently they now give a booster shot for whooping cough when you get your tetanus shot, but since I had my tetanus shot in the ER, they never gave me it.

Comment from: Deb, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 26

I too have whooping cough but it took me 3 GP visits and an emergency dept trip before anybody would take the coughing fits seriously. It's the not being able to breathe at the end which is scary. I have been an Intensive care nurse for 20 years and know how frightening it is for patients when they can't breathe. I was even told I was having panic attacks by one GP as I never seemed to have a coughing fit whilst in the surgery. I have been sick now for 4 weeks and it gets quite depressing as you can see no end in sight.

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