Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Select An Article

Whooping Cough: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Font Size

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a bacterial infection that gets into your nose and throat. It spreads very easily, but vaccines like DTaP and Tdap can help prevent it in children and adults.


At first, whooping cough has the same symptoms as the average cold:

You may also have diarrhea early on.

After about 7-10 days, the cough turns into “coughing spells” that end with a whooping sound as the person tries to breathe in air.

Because the cough is dry and doesn't produce mucus, these spells can last up to 1 minute. Sometimes it can cause your face to briefly turn red or purple.

Most people with whooping cough have coughing spells, but not everyone does.

Infants may not make the whooping sound or even cough, but they might gasp for air or try to catch their breath during these spells. Some may vomit.

Sometimes adults with the condition just have a cough that won’t go away.

Children and Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is dangerous in babies, especially ones younger than 6 months old. In severe cases, they may need to go to an ER.

If you think your child might have it, see your doctor right away.

Children under the age of 18 months with whooping cough should be watched at all times, because the coughing spells can make them stop breathing. Young babies with bad cases may need hospital care, too.

Help protect your child by making sure he and any adult who's around him often gets vaccinated.

For older children and adults, the outlook is usually very good.


If doctors diagnose whooping cough early on, antibiotics can help cut down coughing and other symptoms. They can also help prevent the infection from spreading to others. Most people are diagnosed too late for antibiotics to work well, though.

Don't use over-the-counter cough medicines, cough suppressants, or expectorants (medicines that make you cough up mucus) to treat whooping cough. They don't work.

If your coughing spells are so bad that they keep you from drinking enough fluids, you risk dehydration. Call your doctor right away.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration