Symptoms of pertussis begin within one to two weeks of exposure to the bacteria. At first a pertussis infection can seem like a common cold. Early symptoms can include:

  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • fever

After about one to two weeks, coughing can become severe. Often the cold symptoms disappear and severe and frequent spells of coughing begin. The cough can last for 10 weeks or more. Coughing can become so violent and frequent that you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound.

Many infants and younger children who become infected with pertussis will develop coughing spells and the common “whooping sound” as they inhale – but not in all cases. Infants may look as if they're gasping for air. Their faces may also become very red. They may stop breathing for a few seconds during severe spells.

It’s important to see your doctor if you suspect that your child has pertussis or has been exposed to someone with pertussis, even if your child has already received all scheduled pertussis vaccinations.

Adults and teens with pertussis may have milder symptoms, such as a long-lasting cough (rather than coughing spells) or they may cough without the whooping sound.

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Page Last Updated: 20/08/2014