The symptoms of pertussis usually occur in two stages. The first stage begins like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, and possibly a low-grade fever. The second stage of pertussis includes uncontrolled coughing spells. When a child breathes in, they give a whooping noise. The second stage can last for 6 – 10 weeks.
- Infants under 6 months: Sometimes their symptoms are different.Small infants may stop breathing for a period of time. Also, they may not have a whoop. Infants that are not fully immunized have the most severe disease and many will require hospitalization.
- Older children and adults: In adults, pertussis starts like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever, and cough. Then it turns into bronchitis, which is raspy, hoarse coughing. This can last for weeks. The coughing spells may be so bad that the person can’t sleep and may vomit.
Pertussis is one of the diseases that we vaccinate against. The vaccination series is started at 2 months, but infants are not fully protected until about 6 months of age. As adults our immunity to pertussis begins to wane, so it is a good idea to get a booster vaccine. You can get vaccinated at your doctor's office, or at the Health Department.