Symptoms of early-stage whooping cough in adults resemble symptoms of bronchitis or the common cold and include sneezing, a runny nose and a low fever, reports the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. As the condition progresses, coughing spasms worsen and can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as urinary incontinence or vomiting. Cough spasms can last for several weeks or months, and patients sometimes let out a whooping sound at the end of a coughing spell.
Symptoms of pertussis, the medical term for whooping cough, can develop within five to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After one to two weeks, many adults experience the early symptoms of pertussis as well as exhaustion, paroxysms and vomiting during or after coughing fits. These coughing spells become more common as the disease worsens, and they occur more frequently at night. Recovery from the disease can be slow, and coughing fits can also return several months after being infected with pertussis.
Adults with persistent whooping cough can experience several complications, such as pneumonia, weight loss, lack of sleep and rib fractures due to coughing, explains Healthline. During the earliest stage of the disease, patients are highly contagious and need to avoid contact with unvaccinated people. When whooping cough progresses, patients often salivate, gasp for breath and have teary eyes in between coughing fits.