Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2006;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


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