How is whooping cough (pertussis) diagnosed?

If you think you or your child has whooping cough you must see a doctor. Avoid contact with others until you have seen a doctor.

Your doctor may ask questions about your or your child’s health, for example if they have recently had a cold or another infection, what symptoms they have, if they have taken any medicines, and if they have any other medical conditions (e.g. asthma).

Your doctor may take your child’s temperature. A temperature of 38.5oC or higher means that your child may have a fever.

Your doctor may listen to your child’s chest using a stethoscope (a medical device used to listen to your breathing and heart beat).

A doctor will usually be able to diagnose whooping cough from the characteristic cough.

Babies and children younger than 12 months old

Young babies and children who are younger than 1 year old with suspected whooping cough may need to be diagnosed and treated in hospital. This is because the infection can be severe in babies who haven’t yet been 145848, or who haven’t had all their vaccines and aren’t yet fully immune to the infection.

Older children and adults

If your doctor thinks that you or your child may have whooping cough, they may take a sample from your nose and the top of your throat (a nasopharyngeal swab) with a sterile cotton swab (which is similar to a long thin cotton bud). The sample will be sent to a laboratory and tested for the bacteria that cause whooping cough to confirm the diagnosis.

If you or your child do have whooping cough, your doctor will have to let the relevant public health authorities know, this is because whooping cough is a serious contagious disease.

Read more about how whooping cough is prevented, how the infection is treated, and how the body becomes immune to infection.