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Can whooping cough (pertussis) cause other illnesses?

Whooping cough can lead to pneumonia and ear infections in infants. Other problems that may arise in infants include seizures, breathing difficulties, dehydration and brain damage. In adults, whooping cough can cause injuries related to the coughing. These include broken capillaries in the eyes or skin, hernias or bruised ribs.

Whooping cough (pertussis) may cause other illnesses—especially in babies less than a year old because they haven’t been completely immunized. Half of the babies who get pertussis end up in the hospital. About 25 percent of them will get pneumonia and another 60 percent of them will get apnea, where they stop breathing for a short period of time. About 1 percent of these babies have seizures, and a few babies may acquire infections of the brain tissue caused by pertussis bacteria. Only 1 percent of babies that go into the hospital with pertussis actually die.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.