Symptoms - Whooping cough in babies and children

Whooping cough starts with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, red and watery eyes, sore throat and a raised temperature.

Intense coughing starts about a week later. The coughing:

  • usually last a few minutes at a time
  • is more common at night
  • can bring up thick mucus, sometimes followed by being sick

The cough might be harder to notice in young babies, but they may have brief periods when they stop breathing. This is why it is important to get medical help urgently if your child is less than 12 months old.

Your child may:

  • gasp for breath between coughs, causing a 'whoop' sound - but not everyone has this
  • get very red in the face from coughing, and have slight bleeding under the skin or in the eyes
  • briefly turn blue if they have trouble breathing
  • have a sore throat, ribs and tummy muscles from coughing

The cough will get better over time, but it may take a few months before it stops completely.

Page last reviewed: 4 December 2018
Next review due: 4 December 2021