Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious condition. This infection is most common in infants, but people of all ages can contract it. Whooping cough symptoms tend to be less severe in adults than in children. Unvaccinated infants have the highest risk of developing severe symptoms and complications from whooping cough. In this article, we discuss the symptoms and complications of whooping cough in adults and the treatment options. Adults tend to experience less severe symptoms of whooping cough compared with children.
What is whooping cough (pertussis)?
Whooping cough can be dangerous
Whooping cough pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. In many people, it's marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like "whoop. Before the vaccine was developed, whooping cough was considered a childhood disease. Now whooping cough primarily affects children too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations and teenagers and adults whose immunity has faded. Deaths associated with whooping cough are rare but most commonly occur in infants. That's why it's so important for pregnant women — and other people who will have close contact with an infant — to be vaccinated against whooping cough. Once you become infected with whooping cough, it takes about seven to 10 days for signs and symptoms to appear, though it can sometimes take longer.
Check if you or your child has whooping cough
Pertussis, often called whooping cough, is caused by a bacterial infection. While infants have the greatest chance of getting whooping cough, the illness can be contracted at any age. In general, whooping cough starts off like a common cold. Symptoms can include runny nose, low-grade fever, tiredness, and a mild or occasional cough. Over time, coughing spells become more severe. Coughing may last for several weeks, sometimes 10 weeks or longer. Scientific studies suggest that up to 1 in 20 adults with a cough that lasts for more than two or three weeks may have pertussis. The severity of symptoms may vary in adults.
Learn more. Whooping cough, or pertussis, is very contagious and mainly affects infants and young children. Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium called B ordetella pertussis. The illness is characterized by coughing spells that end with a characteristic "whoop" as air is inhaled.