Whooping cough affects you differently depending on your age.
Babies under 6 months
Whooping cough in young babies is unpredictable and can get worse very quickly. Babies aged less than 6 months old don't usually whoop.
- stop breathing
- go blue with bad coughing bouts
- seem to have a cold, then cough and have difficulty breathing
- get exhausted from coughing
- not be able to feed because of coughing
- lose weight because of trouble feeding and because the cough makes them vomit (be sick).
Older babies and young children
In older babies and young children the illness has 3 stages:
The early stage
It starts with a sore throat, runny nose, mild fever and sneezing – just like a cold. This lasts 1 or 2 weeks.
The second stage
Next, there is an irritating cough. Over a week or two, the cough gets worse and comes in bouts. Children gasp for air between each bout of coughing. They get very red in the face. These spells last 1–3 minutes and they may vomit food or spit (phlegm) after the coughing. The cough often gets worse with swallowing or eating. In between bouts your child is likely to be well.
The final stage
The final stage is the long recovery stage. The symptoms gradually get milder, but the cough continues for weeks.
Older children and adults
Older children and adults mostly have a long-lasting irritating cough and some still get a severe illness.
Whooping cough can last for weeks or months. If you get a cold in the weeks after you have recovered from whooping cough, bouts of coughing can come back for a while.
Whooping cough is not under control in Aotearoa New Zealand. Every 3–5 years there are outbreaks with thousands of people (mostly young children) affected.
More than half of babies under 1 year of age who get whooping cough need to be treated in hospital, and 1 or 2 of every 100 hospitalised babies will die. Having whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, seizures, paralysis, permanent brain damage, deafness and blindness.