Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Whooping Cough: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2006 Aug 1;74(3):427.

  See related article on pertussis.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough can make you cough for several minutes at a time. After you cough, you might make a “whooping” sound when you breathe in. You might vomit or stop breathing for a few seconds after coughing. Whooping cough also is called pertussis.

What causes it?

A germ causes whooping cough. Other people can get the germ from you.

Your doctor can give you a shot to help keep you from getting it. People of all ages can get whooping cough, even if they get the shot.

You should see your doctor if you think you have whooping cough or if you've been around someone who might have it.

How can my doctor tell if I have it?

Your doctor may ask you what your cough sounds like and what happens after you cough. You may need special tests to tell for sure if you have it.

What should I do if I have whooping cough?

You can take medicine to make it go away faster and to help stop other people from getting it from you. Some people who take this medicine get an upset stomach or diarrhea. Your doctor can tell you what medicine is best for you. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant before you take medicine.

People with whooping cough should stay at home until they have taken the medicine for five days. You may cough on and off for up to three months, even after taking medicine. Babies younger than one year may need to stay in the hospital to make sure they are eating and drinking enough and breathing normally.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Web site:

Telephone: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)


Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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