Whooping Cough - Symptoms

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Whooping Cough Symptoms and Signs

The course of whooping cough is divided into three stages.

  • The first stage of whooping cough is the catarrhal (runny nose) stage. This phase typically lasts for one to two weeks. Symptoms during this phase resemble that of an upper respiratory illness: runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and occasional cough. A low-grade fever may be present in some cases. It is only during this stage that progression of whooping cough can be halted by antibiotics.
  • The second stage of whooping cough is the paroxysmal stage. The duration of this phase is highly variable, lasting between one to six weeks, or up to 10 weeks. It is characterized by intense and drawn out bouts of coughing. The attacks tend to be more frequent at night, with an average of 15 attacks in a 24-hour period. Often a "whoop" can be heard caused by the gasping person inhaling between coughs. Babies, in particular, may appear to stop breathing and perhaps turn blue during the coughing spasms. Vomiting is also common during this stage as well.
  • The third stage of whooping cough is the convalescent stage. This can last for weeks or months and is characterized by a chronic cough that becomes less paroxysmal (fewer sudden outbursts of coughing) in nature.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: Vineham, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: February 08

I am 75 and suffering with COPD but the cough is very similar to what everyone describes as whooping cough. I did have whooping cough as an infant. That was in 1935, long before antibiotics and we lived a primitive life without electricity, running water or central heat. Apparently I was not expected to survive but thanks to my mother's excellent nursing skills here I am. I am wondering if anyone knows if there is a connection between COPD in adults and whooping cough in children. My COPD was not diagnosed for about six years and now I have fluid on my lungs and major congestion.

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Comment from: Betty, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: September 19

I am a healthy 80-year-old widow and have been diagnosed with whooping cough. I did not have a cold or sore throat; just a cough which was initially diagnosed as viral bronchitis. The cough was getting worse and quite different from bronchitis, which I have had before. A trip to the hospital Urgent Care Department revealed I had whooping cough. No medication was given. I was just told it would take at least 6 weeks to clear. Then went to see my family doctor who prescribed Azithromycin for 5 days. This has helped, but the cough is still persistent but the coughing attacks are now mainly in the morning and at night, but I just feel exhausted. As I live by myself, I just have to struggle and get on with it, although I don't go outside. Fortunately my son brings me some groceries. He got tested by his doctor and fortunately he has not been infected but he has had the vaccine repeated. Now in my 6th week - hope it clears up soon.

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