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 (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.
During the first stage, common symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a cold or flu and can include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Slight fever
- Dry cough that may get worse at night.
Unlike a cold, whooping cough symptoms stick around, and within two weeks, the symptoms get worse. Common symptoms of whooping cough during this stage can include:
- Fits of coughing that seem to go on and on
- Severe coughing spells that may end in a "whooping" sound when the infected person inhales
- Severe coughing that leads to vomiting, which may make it difficult for a person to eat or drink
- Skin turning blue during coughing episodes.
In this stage, whooping cough attacks occur more frequently at night, with an average of 15 attacks during a 24-hour period. A person with whooping cough symptoms can appear normal between attacks.
Symptoms during this stage usually last for 1 to 6 weeks but can last for up to 10 weeks.
Infants younger than 6 months of age may not have the strength to have a whoop, but they do experience sudden outbursts of coughing.