• By Dana Sparks

Signs and Symptoms of Pertussis

November 20, 2014

ZUMBROTA, Minn. — Symptoms of an ordinary common cold are hard not to miss. But could it be worse? Mayo Clinic Health System has diagnosed several confirmed cases of pertussis, also commonly known as whooping cough.

Family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System – Red Wing in Zumbrota, Elizabeth Cozine, M.D. has seen patients present with symptoms. “Children and adults alike can contract whooping cough,” she says. “Yet, a simple vaccination could have prevented many of these cases.” Whooping cough can take one to three weeks for signs and symptoms to appear. They're usually mild at first and resemble those of a common cold:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Red, watery eyes
  • A mild fever
  • Dry cough

Journalists: Video of baby coughing is available in the downloads.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kristy Jacobson, Mayo Clinic Health System Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, Email:[email protected]

After a week or two, signs and symptoms worsen. Thick mucus accumulates inside your airways, causing uncontrollable coughing. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:

  • Provoke vomiting
  • Result in a red or blue face
  • Cause extreme fatigue
  • End with a high-pitched "whoop" sound during the next breath of air

Other things Dr. Cozine would like parents and academic leaders to be aware of during pertussis season:

  • Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. It is often marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like "whoop." However, the characteristic “whooping” cough may be absent.
  • Pertussis is caused by bacteria. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny germ-laden droplets are sprayed into the air and breathed into the lungs of anyone who happens to be nearby.
  • Pertussis is on the rise because the whooping cough vaccine one receives as a child eventually wears off. This leaves most teenagers and adults susceptible to the infection during an outbreak.
  • If you think you or your child has pertussis (whooping cough), contact your family’s health care provider. Severe symptoms may warrant a visit to an urgent care center or a hospital's emergency department.
  • Treatment for older children and adults who have pertussis can usually be managed at home. Antibiotics kill the bacteria causing pertussis and help speed recovery. Family members may be given preventive antibiotics. Unfortunately, not much is available to relieve the cough.
  • Stay home from school or work for five days after receiving antibiotic treatment.
  • There are six tips on dealing with coughing spells that apply to anyone being treated for pertussis at home. Those steps include: getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids, eating smaller meals, vaporizing the room, keeping the air clean, and preventing transmission.
  • The best way to prevent whooping cough is with the pertussis vaccine. Doctors recommend beginning vaccination during infancy.

Although most pertussis vaccinations are given during infancy, there is also a vaccination called the TDaP vaccination that is offered beyond infancy. This is a very important vaccine that is offered at the 11-year-old (pre-adolescent) well child check-up. Revaccination at age 11 is recommended because of the wearing off of the immunization described above.Dr. Elizabeth Cozine with Mayo Clinic Health System

An additional tip, one that applies to everyone: “Wash your hands and make sure your children wash their hands frequently throughout the day,” Dr. Cozine says. “The best way to prevent a cough or cold is to keep bacteria and viruses off of your skin.”

If you suspect you or your child has pertussis, call the Mayo Clinic Health System Nurse Line for expert advice. If appropriate, you or your family member may be treated with antibiotics via a pertussis exposure protocol, without an office visit. The nurse line is available 24/7 at these Mayo Clinic Health System locations in Goodhue and Wabasha counties:

Zumbrota – 507-732-7314

Red Wing – 651-267-5000

Cannon Falls – 507-263-6000

Lake City – 651-345-1100

Wabasha/Plainview – 651-565-4571

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Mayo Clinic Health System consists of Mayo-owned clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 70 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.


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