Whooping cough is caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It is highly contagious and spreads by coughing, sneezing and even breathing.

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What are whooping cough symptoms?

Early symptoms include low-grade fever, a runny nose and a mild cough. After several days, more serious symptoms may appear:

  • Violent coughing fits, often followed by a “whoop”
  • Throwing up during or after a coughing fit
  • Extreme tiredness after a coughing fit

Whooping cough can cause apnea, or a temporary stopping of breathing, in infants. Contact a healthcare provider immediately if a baby is gasping for breath.

Call 911 and go to the ER if an infant or child has any of these symptoms:

  • Bluish skin
  • Pause in breathing (even a second)
  • High fever
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures

How is whooping cough treated?

Consult a healthcare provider if you notice symptoms. Prescription antibiotics can shorten the illness.

These tips can reduce symptoms:

  • Get rid of irritants that make coughing worse, such as dust, smoke or fumes
  • Use a humidifier to soothe coughs
  • Eat smaller meals to prevent throwing up
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Avoid cough medicines because they can cause harmful side effects

How does the whooping cough vaccine work?

Healthcare providers recommend a pertussis vaccine for prevention. The whooping cough vaccine comes in a combination shot. The recommendation for children younger than 7 is a DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine. The recommendation for anyone older than 7 is a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster vaccine. Consult a healthcare provider to discuss your options.

Consult a healthcare provider if you have whooping cough symptoms. Visit your nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic for diagnosis and treatment or to discuss vaccination options.

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