Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes. It spreads very easily.
The first signs of whooping cough are like a cold.
After about a week, you or your child:
Babies under 6 months old have increased chances of problems including:
Whooping cough is less severe in older children and adults but coughing may cause problems including:
Treatment depends on your age and how long you've had the infection.
If your whooping cough is severe, or your baby is under 6 months old and has whooping cough, you'll usually need treatment in hospital.
If diagnosed within 3 weeks of the infection, you'll be given antibiotics to help stop it spreading to others. Antibiotics may not reduce symptoms.
If you've had whooping cough for more than 3 weeks, you're no longer contagious and do not need antibiotics.
Carry on taking the antibiotics until you've completed the course, even if you feel better.
You're contagious from about 6 days after the start of cold-like symptoms to 3 weeks after the coughing starts.
If you start antibiotics within 3 weeks of starting to cough, it will reduce the time you're contagious for.
The whooping cough vaccine protects babies and children from getting whooping cough. That's why it's important to have all the routine NHS vaccinations.
The vaccine is routinely given as part of:
If you're pregnant you should also have the whooping cough vaccine – ideally between 16 and 32 weeks.