Whoop­ing cough

Your Baby & Toddler - - A-Z Guide -

Also called Per­tus­sis, whoop­ing cough is a highly con­ta­gious bac­te­rial in­fec­tion of the lungs and air­ways. It is char­ac­terised by a per­sis­tent, dry and ir­ri­tat­ing cough that comes in in­tense bouts. When

the child gasps for breath be­tween these bouts, she will make a “whoop­ing” noise.

The cough­ing can last for three months, which is why it is also some­times known as the “100 day cough”. Whoop­ing cough can be se­ri­ous in young chil­dren, es­pe­cially ba­bies un­der a year who are at risk of life-threat­en­ing com­pli­ca­tions.


Early symp­toms are very much like a com­mon cold and in­clude a dry, ir­ri­tat­ing cough, runny or blocked nose, sneez­ing, wa­ter­ing eyes, sore throat and mild tem­per­a­ture.

Af­ter a week or so the sec­ond stage (the parox­ys­mal stage) be­gins and symp­toms in­ten­sify. These in­clude: se­vere cough­ing bouts last­ing be­tween one and two min­utes that bring up thick phlegm, a “whoop” sound be­tween coughs (not al­ways) and vom­it­ing af­ter cough­ing.

Ba­bies and young chil­dren may not make the “whoop” sound, but may gag or even stop breath­ing for a few sec­onds.

Blue­ness in the face dur­ing cough­ing fits.

Child may look as if they are chok­ing (gag­ging and eyes bulging).


Seek ur­gent med­i­cal at­ten­tion if you sus­pect whoop­ing cough.

Your doc­tor will usu­ally pre­scribe an­tibi­otics. Ba­bies less than a year old may need to be hos­pi­talised. En­sure plenty of bed rest. Push flu­ids and watch for signs of de­hy­dra­tion (see “D”).

Parac­eta­mol or ibupro­fen may be used for pain.

Never give aspirin to a per­son un­der 18 un­less di­rected to by a doc­tor.

Al­ways clear ex­cess mu­cus or vomit af­ter bouts of cough­ing so that your child does not choke.

A whoop­ing cough/ per­tus­sis vac­ci­na­tion (DTPIPV/HIB and Td) is in­cluded in the state vac­ci­na­tion sched­ule.

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