What Are Whooping Cough's Early Symptoms

What Are Whooping Cough's Early Symptoms?

Table of Contents

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It is early symptoms are severe coughing, heavy breathing, and a “whooping” sound in many people. Before the vaccine was developed, whooping cough was considered a childhood disease. 

Currently, whooping cough primarily affects children who are very young and have not completed an entire course of vaccinations and adolescents and adults who are immunocompromised. In this valuable article, we will examine whooping cough and how to diagnose and treat it. Please stay with us until the end.

Deaths associated with pertussis are rare but occur primarily in infants. That is why it is so crucial for pregnant women (and others in close contact with a baby) to get vaccinated against whooping cough.

 Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by Bordetella pertussis. In 2018, there were more than 151,000 cases of pertussis worldwide.

Bordetella pertussis

Whooping cough is easily spread from person to person, mainly through droplets caused by coughing or sneezing. This disease is perilous in infants and is a significant cause of illness and death in this age group. The first symptoms usually appear 7 to 10 days after infection. 

They include a mild fever, runny nose, and a cough that typically gradually develops into a hacking cough followed by whooping cough (hence the common name, whooping cough). Pneumonia is a common complication, and seizures and brain disease rarely occur.

People with whooping cough are highly contagious for about three weeks after the cough starts, and many children who become infected have a cough that lasts 4 to 8 weeks. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection.

You may also be interested in reading the article “Stage of Cold in Babies

Whooping cough in infant

What is whooping cough?

As we mentioned, whooping cough is a bacterial infection that enters through the nose and throat. It is easily spread, but vaccines such as DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) can help prevent it in children and adults.
Whooping cough is a severe respiratory infection caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The infection causes severe, uncontrollable coughing that can make breathing difficult. Sometimes the patient is forced to purchase and rent an oxygen generator.

What Are Whooping Cough's Early Symptoms 02

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

The incubation period of this disease is between 5 and 10 days.
It takes 5 to 10 days from the initial infection to the onset of symptoms. Of course, some sources have suggested that these symptoms may not appear even for three weeks.
One to two weeks after this bacterium enters the body, symptoms similar to those of a cold appear in a person. The symptoms of pertussis (whooping cough) can be listed as follows:

  • Mild coughs
  • Low-temperature fever
  • Runny nose
  • Discharge in the throat
  • shortness of breath in sleep
whooping cough symptoms

As the disease progresses, the signs and symptoms become more severe. The following symptoms can be seen as signs of the progress of the disease in a person’s body:

  • Severe attacks followed by coughing.
  • Vomiting with or after severe coughing.
  • Teary and red eyes and bruised face.
  • Bladder pressure and lack of control due to excessive coughing.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Pressure on the ribs or even broken ribs due to excessive and violent coughing.
  • Fainting and passing out after coughing attacks.
  • Weight loss or dehydration.
What Are Whooping Cough's Early Symptoms 03

Prevention of whooping cough

The best way to prevent this disease is to inject a vaccine. Usually, for the immunity of children and infants, multiple pentavalent vaccine injections are prescribed. 

This vaccine protects children up to 5 years of age against pertussis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type B, and tetanus. Injecting the triple vaccine (DTP) at specified periods until age six is another way of prevention through vaccination.
In addition, it is necessary to maintain distance and contact in public places to prevent contracting this disease. It is better to only take babies and children in public places with air conditioning. Also, wash your hands well after being in public places.

who need a whooping cough vaccine

When should you see a doctor?

If symptoms such as the following are seen, you should see a doctor to prevent life-threatening injuries:

  1. Vomit
  2. Facial bruising
  3. Struggling to breathe better with significant pauses between breaths
  4. Breathing loudly
What Are Whooping Cough's Early Symptoms 04

What is the cause of whooping cough?

As mentioned, whooping cough is caused by Bordetella Pertussis bacteria. When an infected person sneezes, or coughs, tiny droplets filled with this bacteria are released into the air. In this case, it will enter the lungs of anyone nearby.

Who is more susceptible to pertussis?

Almost everyone receives the pertussis vaccine during childhood. However, eventually, it weakens and disappears. This makes teenagers and adults more susceptible to infection. As a result, its prevalence increases and may be irregular.

Babies under 12 months of age who have not been vaccinated are at the highest risk for severe complications and even death.

What Are Whooping Cough's Early Symptoms 05

How is pertussis diagnosed?

It is difficult to diagnose this disease early because its symptoms may be similar to those of other respiratory diseases such as flu or cold and bronchitis.

In most cases, the doctor diagnoses this disease by examining the symptoms and listening to the cough. However, sometimes, for a more accurate diagnosis, there is a need to perform other tests:

  • sampling

In order to make a more accurate diagnosis of this disease, the doctor will examine the patient’s sputum sample from the throat or nose. In this way, if the bacteria of this disease are present, they will be diagnosed with it.

What Are Whooping Cough's Early Symptoms 06
  • blood test

A blood test is done to check the number of white blood cells. The purpose of checking the number of white blood cells is to determine the level of infection in the body because white blood cells fight infection in the body. 

The higher their number, the higher the level of inflammation or infection in the body. Of course, this test is general and not only for diagnosing whooping cough.

In that regard reading the article “WBC Count: A Guide To Understanding Your Results And Next Steps” will be necessary.

  • Photo of the chest

The doctor recommends this test to check for inflammation and the presence of tissue or any fluid in the lungs. Sometimes it may be due to pneumonia, cough, and other symptoms.

blood test

How is whooping cough treated?

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection and can be treated with antibiotics, usually from the erythromycin family, within two weeks. The patient must take all the prescribed doses if the doctor prescribes antibiotics. 

Early termination of the treatment period can lead to the relapse of the disease with a higher severity than before. In more severe cases, the person may need to be hospitalized; sometimes in the intensive care unit, in which case a breathing tube is inserted into the patient’s throat, and until the infection is cured, this tube is responsible for protecting the respiratory tract and helping the patient to breathe.

bordetella pertussis 1

Possible complications of whooping cough

Infants with pertussis require close monitoring to avoid potentially dangerous complications due to lack of oxygen. Serious complications include:

  1. Concussion
  2. Pneumonia
  3. convulsions
  4. Bleeding in the brain
  5. Apnea (slowing or stopping breathing)
  6. Seizures (uncontrollable, rapid shaking)
  7. Death

If your baby experiences symptoms of infection, call your doctor right away. Older children and adults can also experience complications, including:

  1. Difficulty sleeping
  2. Urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control)
  3. Pneumonia
  4. rib fracture
whooping cough vaccine

Is whooping cough contagious?

Symptoms of whooping cough can last up to four weeks or more, even during treatment. Children and adults usually recover quickly with early medical intervention. 

Infants are at the highest risk of death from whooping cough, even after starting treatment. Parents should monitor babies carefully. If symptoms persist or worsen, call your doctor immediately. Of course, be careful that this disease is contagious.


Whooping cough is caused by the activity of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis and infection of the respiratory tract. Generally, this disease is highly contagious. 

However, until two weeks after the end of the incubation period, there is the highest possibility of transmission of pertussis from an infected person to others.
The symptoms of this disease in the early stages include mild cough, fever with low temperature, runny nose, secretions in the throat, and breathing interruptions in sleep.

In the advanced stages of this disease, severe attacks are followed by coughing, vomiting, and pressure on the bladder due to excessive coughing, watery and red eyes, severe fatigue, broken ribs, unconsciousness and passing out after coughing attacks, and weight loss. Or dehydration occurs.

The best way to prevent this disease is to inject a vaccine.
Today, the death rate due to Whooping cough has decreased drastically and its symptoms is entirely treatable. However, carrying out treatment solutions under the doctor’s prescription is better.

Share in :
Explore more

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Author and specialist

Dr. Majid Zahrabi,


  • Board Certified Neurosurgeon
  • DHA certificate holder
  • Plantation certificate holder, France
  • Certified holder of Discogol, France
  • A pioneer in the non-surgical treatment of disc herniation in the Middle East and CIS countries.
  • Under the training and coaching of Professor Jacques Theron (founder of Discogel Therapy) since 2008
  • More than 400 successful cervical and 1300 lumbar discogel injections
  • Trained and certified several neurosurgeons and spine surgeons in the Middle East and CIS countries for the treatment of Discogel
  • Strong belief in patient-centered care planning and participation
  • Neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Imam Khomeini and Amir Mazandarani Hospital, Sari, Iran, with more than 430 surgeries annually, 2000-2011
  • Neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Farmaniyeh, Nikan and Yas Sepid Hospital, Tehran, Iran, with more than 400 surgeries annually, 2011-2012
  • Neurosurgeon at Iranian Hospital, Dubai, 2022-2023
  • Since 2015, he has been working as a reference doctor for the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation with Discogel and has trained many doctors of spine-related specialties in various countries of the Middle East and CIS in person/practically and online.



  • Individual training sessions under the direct supervision of Professor Jacques Theron in Discogel treatment, 2008-2020
  • Training sessions under the supervision of Professor Thierry Boye on spinal implants, 2007
  • Participation and presentation in several national and international medical and neuro-spinal conferences
  • Board certificate by Iran Neurosurgery Board, 2001
  • Neurosurgery assistant training course, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran, 1996-2001 (In 2001, he graduated from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences with the first rank in the country.
  • His thesis the titled:The Application of human amniotic membrane in repair of dura matter in dogs.” ( It was happening for the first time in the world. )
  • General medical education, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran, 1984-1993


Published books:

  • CT scan of the brain for doctors
  • Etiology and treatment of painful spine disorders
  • Atlas of diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of spine disorders
  • The most common mistakes in the treatment of spinal disorders
  • Reading brain CT scan in simple language (3rd place in the book of the year)
  • Treatment of head and spine injuries

Publications and articles:

  • Bacteriostatic and bactericidal effects of DISCOGEL® (https://www.researchgate.net/)
  • Muscle recovery, reduction of pain, and improvement of movement strategies in patients with lumbar discopathy after injection of Discogel.
  • The article on the initial results of the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation with discogel injection, which won the second-best poster rank at the Pan Arab International Congress of Interventional Radiology (March 14-16, 2015) and was accepted for presentation at the Chicago Pain Congress.
  • The use of human amniotic membrane in dura mater repair in dogs, a study for the first time in the world.



  • Annual Congress of Physiotherapists of Iran, 2019
  • Chicago International Pain Congress, 2019
  • Iran International Pain Management Congress, 2018
  • Annual Congress of Physiotherapists of Iran, 2018
  • Presentation of Discogel as an innovative solution for the treatment of spinal disc herniation in Armenia for orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons, 2017
  • First Live Workshop and Seminar on Minimally Invasive Disc Therapy (DISCON), 2017
  • Presentation of Discogel as an innovative solution for the treatment of spinal disc herniation in Azerbaijan for orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons, 2016
  • Seminar of Iranian official managers, 2016
  • Presentation of Discogel as an innovative solution for the treatment of spinal disc herniation in Tajikistan for orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons, 2016
  • International Neurological Intervention Congress in Iran, 2014
  • Educational seminar for nurses on treatment approaches for head and spine trauma, 2014
  • Educational seminar for general practitioners on treatment approaches for head and spine trauma, 2014
  • Speech at the Retraining Seminar for General Practitioners and Specialists in Dubai (Discon) in 2017
  • Speech in the internal retraining courses of Irani Hospital, Dubai
  • Holding lecture sessions and practical workshops on the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation with discogel injection in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Oman, and Armenia during the years 2015 to 2021.
  • Giving a lecture and holding a practical workshop for neurosurgeons in Vietnam at Ho Chi Minh City University in 2023

Dr. Majid Zohrabi started treating his patients in Dubai in 2022 and continues his activities in private medical centers in the UAE.