Diseases Home > Contagious Period for Whooping Cough

A person with whooping cough is contagious as long as they have symptoms; however, infected people are more likely to transmit the bacteria that cause the illness during the first three weeks of symptoms. These are similar to those seen with the common cold; thus, infected people at this period may not know they have whooping cough.

What Is the Contagious Period for Whooping Cough?

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious infection. A person is most likely to transmit the bacteria that cause this illness when he or she is experiencing symptoms, especially during the first three weeks of symptoms.

Suggestions to Prevent Transmission of Whooping Cough

Because the first whooping cough symptoms, which typically develop during the first week or so of the illness, are similar to the common cold, parents can help protect young infants by minimizing their exposure to people who have cold symptoms or an illness with coughing.
Coughing people of any age -- including parents, siblings, and grandparents -- can have whooping cough. When a person has cold symptoms or cough-related illness, they need to stay away from young infants as much as possible.

When Do Symptoms Appear?

The whooping cough incubation period is the time between becoming infected with the bacteria that cause this illness (Bordetella pertussis) and developing symptoms. The incubation period is commonly 7 to 10 days, but it can range from 4 to 21 days and, in rare cases, may be as long as 42 days.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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