Whooping cough (pertussis) can cause complications in people of all ages. Some people will get serious complications and need care in the hospital.
Serious and sometimes deadly complications are more likely in babies under a year old.
Whooping cough can cause serious and sometimes deadly complications in babies and young children. Babies and children who have not had all recommended whooping cough vaccines are more likely to get serious complications.
About one third of babies younger than 1 year old who get whooping cough need care in the hospital. The younger the baby, the more likely they will need treatment in the hospital.
Of those babies younger than 1 year old who are treated in the hospital with whooping cough about:
- 2 in 3 (68%) will have apnea (life-threatening pauses in breathing)
- 1 in 5 (22%) get pneumonia (lung infection)
- 1 in 50 (2%) will have convulsions (violent, uncontrolled shaking)
- 1 in 150 (0.6%) will have encephalopathy (disease of the brain)
- 1 in 100 (1%) will die
Teens and adults can also get complications, like pneumonia, from whooping cough.
If they have a severe cough, teens and adults can
- Pass out
- Fracture (break) a rib
- Lose bladder control
- Lose weight
Complications are usually less serious in this older age group, especially in those who have been vaccinated against whooping cough. However, if complications are serious, some people may need care in the hospital.