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Summary Table: Stages and Clinical Features of Pertussis

Clinical Features
Usually 7-10 days; range of 4-21 days
  • Inflammation of mucous membranes in the nose
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild, occasional cough (which becomes progressively worse)
Usually 1-6 weeks; may persist up to 10 weeks
  • Paroxysms of numerous, rapid coughs due to difficulty expelling thick mucous from the tracheobronchial tree
    • Paroxysmal attacks frequently occur at night
    • Average of 15 attacks/24 hour period
    • Increase in frequency of attacks during the first 1-2 weeks, remain at the same frequency 2-3 weeks, and then gradually decrease
  • Long inspiratory effort accompanied by a high-pitch "whoop" at the end of the paroxysms
  • Cyanosis
  • Vomiting and exhaustion
Usually 7-10 days; range of 4-21 days
  • Gradual recovery
  • Less persistent paroxysmal coughs that disappear in 2-3 weeks
  • Paroxysms often recur with subsequent respiratory infections for many months after the onset of pertussis

Adapted from the table, Clinical features of pertussis. Available at: Accessed May 31, 2016.