Early symptoms of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, appear similar to those of a common cold, according to Mayo Clinic. Symptoms worsen after a week or two when thick mucus causes severe, uncontrollable coughing attacks. Coughing may lead to vomiting, fatigue and a "whoop" noise during breathing.
The early, mild symptoms of pertussis include a runny nose, cough, fever, watery eyes and congestion, explains Mayo Clinic. These symptoms appear a week to 10 days after exposure to the virus. The secondary symptoms that lead to coughing fits can result in a red or blue face. However, some patients do not cough or have the characteristic "whoop." Adults and teens may simply experience a hacking cough. Infants with pertussis may not cough at all. Babies may struggle to breathe or stop breathing momentarily.
Patients should seek medical help if they are struggling to breathe or stop breathing periodically, turn blue or red in the face, vomit or make a "whooping" sound when breathing in, states Mayo Clinic. Although death from pertussis is rare, infants suffer the highest death rate from the disease. Anyone who has close contact with an infant should receive a pertussis vaccine. The most common patients are infants too young to receive the vaccine or adults and teenagers who no longer have immunity to the disease.