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Whooping Cough (Pertussis) (cont.)

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. (Barking coughs usually indicate a viral infection and are not indicative of whooping cough). Newborn babies and infants, in particular, may appear to stop breathing and perhaps turn blue during the coughing spasms. Vomiting or choking 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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/18/2014

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