Skip to main content


Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What is pertussis?

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. Your air passages get plugged with thick mucus, which causes coughing spells. Pertussis is usually less serious in adults and most serious in babies and young children. Pertussis is caused by bacteria. It is easily spread in the air when someone with pertussis coughs or sneezes.

What are the signs and symptoms of pertussis?

It may take 3 to 21 days to get pertussis after you come in contact with the bacteria. This time is called the incubation period. Pertussis begins like a cold. After you cough and you take a breath, you may make a whooping noise. You may also cough up thick mucus after a coughing spell. You may cough for several weeks or months after you begin to feel better. You may also have the following signs and symptoms:

How is pertussis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and listen to your lungs. He or she will ask about your symptoms and how long you have felt sick. He or she may ask if you have other health conditions. Tell your healthcare provider if you have been around anyone who has pertussis. He or she may order the following tests to find the cause of your symptoms:

How is pertussis treated?

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my symptoms?

What can I do to prevent the spread of pertussis?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

Call your doctor if:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2024 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.