Diseases Home > Whooping Cough Symptoms

When it comes to whooping cough, symptoms are generally divided into three separate stages. During the first stage of the illness, symptoms are similar to those of a cold or flu. In stage two, symptoms stick around (unlike a cold), and within two weeks, the symptoms get worse for a period generally lasting 1 to 6 weeks. It's during this second stage that the cough ending in a "whooping" sound generally appears. During the final stage, symptoms may gradually improve, often disappearing within 2 to 3 weeks.

Whooping Cough Signs and Symptoms: An Overview

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis (B. pertussis). When a person is infected with B. pertussis, bacteria multiply within the body. The period between the time of infection and when symptoms of whooping cough appear is called the incubation period. The whooping cough incubation period is commonly 7 to 10 days, with a general range of 4 to 21 days; rarely, the incubation period may be as long as 42 days.
Once whooping cough symptoms begin, there are generally three stages of the illness.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough: Stage 1

During the first stage, common symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a cold or flu and can include:
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Slight fever
  • Dry cough that may get worse at night.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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