​Pertussis (Whooping Cough)


Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that affects the nasal pathway of your child. This is a serious disease that can cause babies to stop breathing. A person suffering from whooping cough usually spreads this disease by coughing and sneezing while in close contact with others, who then contract the disease as well. 

Now that vaccinations have been introduced, whooping cough affects only babies who have not yet completed the full course of the vaccinations or have very low immune system. Ideally, a pregnant woman should get vaccinated in her third trimester so that her baby does not contract the disease after birth.​

Whooping cough starts with a common cold. The following symptoms may be visible:

  • Runny nose

  • Nasal blockage

  • Fever

  • Watery eyes that may also turn red

  • Mild fever

  • Mild cough

  • Sneezing

After about one or two weeks, the following symptoms may start to manifest:

  • Your child will be struck by a coughing spell that may last from one to one and half minute

  • This is dry coughing with no phlegm in the throat or mouth

  • After continuously coughing, your child will have no air in the lungs and will try to breathe in. This will make a ​​​‘whooping’ sound

  • The child may also vomit after the breathing spell while trying to breathe in

  • During this spell, your child may turn purple or blue

  • Between the spells, your child will seem fine

In infants:

  • Your infant may turn red during the breathing spell

  • Your infant may stop breathing for a while for a few seconds between a very bad spell

Ideally your child should undergo a course of vaccinations after birth. However, babies can contract this disease before the course completes. If you see any of the above symptoms in your child, visit the Children’s Hospital Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately for an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Your doctor will primarily check your baby’s symptoms or listen to the cough to diagnose whooping cough. In other cases, your doctor may conduct the following tests to diagnose the disease:

  • Chest x-ray: your doctor may ask for a chest x-ray to see if your baby’s lungs are inflamed or have fluids in it. This can happen when pneumonia has complicated the already existing whooping cough or other respiratory infections.

  • A nose or throat culture and test: the doctor will take a swab sample from the nose and throat area and run tests on it to check for the presence of bacteria causing the whooping cough ​

  • Blood tests: your doctors will ask for blood tests to evaluate the count of white blood cells in your blood. White blood cells usually fight the infections that are contracted by your body. If your doctor finds the levels of white blood cells at an elevated level, this proves the presence of an infection in the body.

When infants are affected by whooping cough, they are typically hospitalized because it can prove to be dangerous for them. In case of dehydration (due to constant coughing and vomiting), intravenous fluids will be given in the hospital. Usually, your child will be kept in isolation so he or she does not spread it amongst other babies and childre​n.

Medications can kill the bacteria and help in speedy recovery but nothing much can be done to alleviate the cough. t is important that all family members take preventative measures to avoid contracting this bacterium.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.


​​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.