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Whooping cough in babies and children - when to get medical help - Whooping cough in babies and children

Whooping cough is most serious for babies under 12 months old. Older babies and children can also get very unwell from whooping cough.

Baby under 12 months old

Urgent advice: Take your baby to a GP urgently if:

they are under 12 months old and have:

  • symptoms of whooping cough
  • a cough for more than 3 weeks, or which is getting worse

Baby or child of any age

Emergency action required: Go to the emergency department or call 112 or 999 immediately if:

your baby or child:

  • has periods of stopping breathing and their face or lips go blue (cyanosis)
  • is finding it hard to breathe properly (shallow breathing)
  • has chest pain that's worse when breathing or coughing – this could be a sign of pneumonia
  • cannot be woken up
  • starts having fits or seizures

Doctors can usually diagnose whooping cough by listening to the cough. You could take a recording on your phone to help with this.

Phone ahead to let them know that you think your child has whooping cough.

Page last reviewed: 11 January 2023
Next review due: 11 January 2026