When should I call the doctor about my child's whooping cough (pertussis)?

If your child has not yet had pertussis, call your child’s doctor if he has:
  • Been exposed to someone with pertussis or if you think he may have
          pertussis, even if he has had his vaccines.
  • A cough that lasts longer than a week and he has not yet been seen
          by a doctor.
  • A cough that causes vomiting or breathing problems.
  • A cough that has a whooping sound when he breathes in.

If your child is being treated for pertussis, call your child’s doctor if:

  • Your child has persistent lethargy or irritability (does not smile or
          show interest in play for at least a few minutes during a
          four-hour period).
  • Your child wheezes or breathes harder than he did when he was
          seen by the doctor.
  • Your baby is unable to breathe and suck at the same time or chokes
          when he sucks.
  • Your child has fast, shallow breathing.
  • Your child has a tight feeling in the chest.
  • You see signs of dehydration (drying out):

        - No urine in six to eight hours in an infant less than 1 year of age
        - No urine in more than eight hours in a child older than 1 year of  
        - No tears when crying
        - Sunken eyes
        - Dry lips and mouth

  • Your child has a fever over 100.4°F
  • Your child is unable to keep fluids down or vomits more than twice a
  • You have any concerns about how your child looks or feels.

 Call 911 or your local ambulance service right away if your child:

  • Is so lethargic that he hardly responds to you
  • Is working very hard to breathe or finds it hard to take a breath
  • Has chest retractions (skin pulling in around the ribs and chest when
  • Grunts when he breathes
  • Has a blue or dark purple color to the nail beds, lips or gums
  • Stops breathing for more than 5 seconds
  • Cannot speak while trying to breathe
  • Has any breathing problem that needs care right away.

Continue Learning about Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough

If your child experiences uncontrollable coughing that makes it difficult for them to breathe, talk to your doctor about whooping cough. Thousands of people yearly become ill with whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis, ...

and some are hospitalized. This highly contagious illness can be very dangerous, and even deadly, in young infants. Thankfully, vaccines have helped to reduce the spread of whooping cough, although current vaccines are not 100% effective against this illness. If your child contracts this bacterial respiratory infection he or she will most likely be treated with antibiotics. To protect your children against whooping cough, talk to your doctor about vaccination

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.