whooping cough logo

Frequently asked questions about whooping cough

Whooping cough Home page

Quick self-diagnosis test for whooping cough

Introduction from Dr Doug Jenkinson

Symptoms of whooping cough (sounds and video)

Treatment of whooping cough

Laboratory diagnosis of whooping cough

Complications of whooping cough

Prevention of whooping cough

Who catches whooping cough

How do you catch whooping cough

FAQ whooping cough

A printout for your doctor

Statistics on whooping cough

Send a comment to Dr J

Keyworth study of whooping cough

Who is Dr Doug Jenkinson?

Sufferers' comments and experiences of whooping cough

News about whooping cough

Extra material about whooping cough

Dear Dr J. I have been diagnosed with whooping cough and had several antibiotics, steroids, inhalers and cough medicines, none of which have done any good. We are desperate to find something to relieve it and get me/my wife better faster. What can we do Dr J?
Oh dear! I am really sorry for you, but the whole point of this site is to point out that it is a prolonged distressing illness very often, and there is no treatment that makes any real difference. It just gets better in its own good time, which may be as short as 3 weeks but is more likely to be 2 to 3 months.  There is no remedy except prevention by making sure everybody gets all their shots, then far fewer people would get it.

Dear Dr J. What is the treatment for whooping cough? summary treatment page

Dear Dr J. How long is it infectious for?
From the start of whooping cough most people are incapable of passing it on after 3 weeks if they are given no antibiotic which kills the bug (but remember there are no hard and fast rules) and could possibly be as much as six weeks.  If you have an antibiotic which kills the bug (Bordetella pertussis) you are considered unable to pass it on after 3 days on the antibiotic (Azithromycin is usually the one).
This all sounds very straightforward, but it is sometimes difficult to know when it starts because  getting a viral cold or respiratory infection makes people susceptible to whooping cough, so the start of the symptoms in that case is not the start of whooping cough, which could be 2 weeks (or any other short time) later.

Dear Dr J. Every year I get a cough which sounds just like the cough on your site. Could this be whooping cough?
It is extremely improbable but if yoyu suspect it get a blood test done and find out.

Dear Dr J. We seemed to be getting over whooping cough after an exhausting 8 weeks when suddenly it has come back again . What has gone wrong? How long will it last?
This is very common. When whooping cough is in its recovery phase, catching another mild respiratory infection will cause all the bad whooping cough symptoms to come back again, but only for the duration of the cold , then it will settle again.

Dear Dr J. I am pregnant and I have whooping cough (or been in contact with whooping cough) and am very worried about whether the baby could be damaged.
Whooping cough in pregnancy does not harm the baby unless you are still infectious when the baby is born. The baby could catch it then, which would be extremely serious. Fortunately, in such circumstances, giving erythromycin to mother before birth and baby after birth, would  stop both getting it. All pregnant women should now be immunized against whooping cough between 28 and 32weeks ideally. Later may be OK too. It is 90% effective at protecting babies from whooping cough before they get their shots.

Dear Dr J. My husband (wife, child) has had this terrible cough for 3 weeks and I am wondering whether it is whooping cough. I am really worried .
Get a doctor to see the patient straight away! This site is not a substitute for a doctor. If somebody thinks they have whooping cough they need to see a doctor. Not necessarily to get whooping cough confirmed but to make sure it is nothing more serious.

Dear Dr J. I have had fever and a bad cough that is making me choke for 4 days now. I sound just like the recording. Is this whooping cough?
Probably not. Whooping cough starts as an ordinary cough that gradually becomes choking over a week, or often more. I only diagnose whooping cough if somebody has a typical choking cough for three weeks, although I strongly suspect it after 2 weeks.

Dear Dr J. My doctor is useless. I have told him/her it is just like whooping cough, but he/she does not seem to think it could be and I get prescribed more antibiotics and told it is just an ordinary cough. How can I get through?
You are probably fighting a losing battle. As long as your doctor does a physical check, you are probably not missing out on anything, but I agree, it is difficult to have confidence. There is a page on this site that you could print out and give to your doctor in the hope that they may be prepared to learn something from you, or, having read it, tell you with good reason why it does not fit with whooping cough. (page for doctors)

Dear Dr J. Does whooping cough cause any long term lung damage?
No. Therre is no evidence it does that. It used to be thought it was a cause of bronchiectasis. This might have true in the past but probably now. To cause lung damage it would probably have to cause pneumonia first.

Dear Dr J. Can I get whooping cough more than once?
Yes quite a lot of adults with it tell me they had it as a child. Many people tell me they get a choking cough that sounds like whooping cough every year. I don't think that can be whooping cough. Immunity to whooping cough only last a few years and we all probably get mild versions of it that boost immunity for a few more years without us realising it.

Dear Dr J. I have heard that whooping cough vaccine can cause permanent brain damage. Is it true?
NOT true. In the 1970s people thought it might be true of the old type vaccine used then, but research done at the time showed it not to be true. The question was asked about the old whole cell vaccine. In the developed world we now use acellular vaccine which is much purer than the old vaccine anyway and does not cause any kind of damage.

Dear Dr J. What is Bordetella parapertussis? Does it cause whooping cough?
It is a closely related bacterium that can also cause whooping cough. It is a less severe form. It is probably responsible for less than 1% of cases. (lab-diagnosis)

Dear Dr J. I am going to Australia to see our new grandson. Can I get a whooping cough booster as he will not be immunized and I understand it is more common in adults.
It is a good and sensible idea. Your doctor or travel clinic should be able to give you a booster of REPEVAX. (see prevention/immunization also)

Dear Dr J. I am pregnant and have been advised to have a whooping cough booster injection.
This is a very important protection for you baby as whooping cough is getting more common. You can have Repevax or equivalent quite safely. It should be given between 28 and 38 weeks although timings vary depending on where you live. The USA and the UK are slightly different.
It gives your baby a very great protection (about 90%).

Dear Dr J. I am recovering from whooping cough and feel quite reasonable. What is it safe for me to do activitywise.
You should be able do your normal activites including exercise quite safely. Driving and having a coughing attack is obviously a no-no.

Dear Dr J. Since I started with whooping cough I cannot sing and my voice sounds different.
This is uite common in adults. It usually clears but may last longer than the coughing. Very occasionally the voice never completely recovers.

Dear Dr J. I know I (my child) have had whooping cough. Do I (he/she) still need to get the regular immunization shots?
Yes. Immunity to whooping cough does not last long whether you get it from the infection or the immunisation. You will probably only be allowed it every 10 years after the standard 5 shots unless you are pregnant, although it does not last that long.