What Happens to People Who Have Pertussis?
After the incubation period, there are three distinct stages of pertussis infection: the catarrhal (kah-TAR-hul), paroxysmal (PAIR-ok-siz-mul), and convalescent (kon-vuh-LEH-sent) stages. In the catarrhal stage, the first symptoms of the disease appear and often are mistaken for those of a common cold or the flu. They include runny nose, sneezing, mild fever, and a cough that gradually worsens. This stage typically lasts 1 to 2 weeks. In the paroxysmal stage, the characteristic symptoms of whooping cough take center stage. The occasional cough develops into sudden violent attacks, or paroxysms, of rapid coughing ending with the whooping noise. The coughing is due to the buildup of mucus in the respiratory tract and occurs frequently at night. Babies under 6 months of age may not have the strength to make the whooping sound that older children, teens, and adults typically do, but they do have bursts of coughing. It is difficult to breathe during these fits, and many patients turn blue f