It starts like a cold, with congestion and
upper respiratory symptoms. After a week
or so, a cough develops. The cough
worsens over several days, and the coughing fits may be so severe that you
can't stop or catch your breath. A coughing fit may be followed by a “whoop” as
the person gasps to catch their breath. It's
these coughing fits, called paroxysms, which cause doctors to be worried about
pertussis and try to confirm the diagnosis.
In people who have been
vaccinated or who have had pertussis before, the symptoms may be nonspecific. Pertussis is high on the list if that whoop
is present, but if it’s absent, pertussis may go unrecognized.
It’s important to know
that infants with pertussis don’t always cough.
In young babies, the first sign of pertussis may be difficulty breathing
or pauses in breathing that last more than 20 seconds, called “apnea.” Apnea is serious and requires immediate
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