Whooping Cough


Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Whooping Cough Diagnosis

The early-stage symptoms of whooping cough often resemble those of the common cold or other common respiratory illnesses such as the flu or bronchitis.

Because of this, healthcare professionals may not suspect or diagnose pertussis until more severe symptoms, such as coughing and “whooping,” develop.

Sometimes, your healthcare provider can diagnose whooping cough by asking about your symptoms and listening to your cough. He or she will likely conduct a physical examination and consult your medical history.

However, if he or she is unsure about your illness, further medical tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Some medical tests used to diagnose whooping cough include:

  • A nose or throat culture and test: Your healthcare provider takes a swab or suctioned sample from the nasopharynx (the area where the nose and throat meet). The sample taken is then checked for evidence of the presence of the bacteria that cause whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis).
  • Blood tests: A blood sample may be drawn and sent to a lab to check your white blood cell count (as white blood cells help the body fight infections like whooping cough). A high white blood cell count usually indicates the presence of infection or inflammation. This is a general test, however, and cannot indicate the presence of whooping cough in particular.
  • A chest X-ray14: Your provider may order an X-ray to check for the presence of inflammation or fluid in the lungs (which can occur when whooping cough or other respiratory infections lead to complications like pneumonia).

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.