Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection of the lining of the respiratory tract (breathing tubes). It is known as whooping cough because of the "whooping" sound that people make when gasping for air after a fit of coughing.
Early symptoms of pertussis mimic that of a common cold (runny nose, watery, red eyes, fever, sneezing, feeling unwell).
Other symptoms include:
- Not wanting to eat
- Dry cough- that gets worse over about 2 weeks, and can last for months
- Long coughing spells
- Sudden coughing spells
- Thick mucus
- Whooping sound, as they try to get their breath (not always heard)
- The face may change colour-red or bluish, while coughing
- Small blood vessels in the skin of the face may break, causing small red spots on the skin
- Coughing may be worse at night
- Vomiting (throwing up) because of the amount of coughing
You should see a doctor for:
- Follow-up appointments
- Trouble breathing
- Noisy breathing
- Ear aches
- Slow or stopped breathing spells
- Signs of dehydration (dry mouth, extreme thirst, little or no urine/pee)
- High fever
- Coughing up green or yellow mucus
- Signs of a hernia: bulging spots in the abdomen (stomach)
Whooping cough is very contagious. It is spread by sneezing and coughing.
It is generally treated with antibiotics, which are used to control the symptoms and to prevent infected people from spreading the disease.
Go to whooping cough immunizations
- Who should be vaccinated?
- Where you can get the whopping cough vaccination?
For more information, talk to your family doctor or other health care provider. Or contact HealthLink BC for free by calling 8-1-1 or visiting the HealthLink BC website.
Visit the communicable disease control page or the child care facilities page.