Whooping Cough (Pertussis): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Pertussis is the medical name for whooping cough. Pertussis is highly contagious. Early symptoms of pertussis are similar to those of the common cold, such as sneezing, runny nose, and mild fever. The second stage (paroxysmal stage) of the illness produces the characteristic cough or "whoop" sound. In the third stage of the infection, the cough and other associated symptoms improve over time.

The signs and symptoms of pertussis are worse during the paroxysmal stage. The cough typically comes in bursts. In addition to the characteristic whooping cough, other associated symptoms can include bluish skin (cyanosis) during a coughing attack, vomiting (following a cough attack), and exhaustion.

Causes of whooping cough (pertussis)

Airway infection with the bacteria Bordetella pertussis causes this condition.

Other whooping cough (pertussis) symptoms and signs


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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.