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Is it a cold, flu or whooping cough?

Page last updated 12 May 2020

Your doctor is the best person to determine if your cough is caused by a virus (eg. influenza or the common cold), or a bacterial infection (eg. whooping cough). There are also other causes of a chronic cough and it is always best to consult your doctor. 

Whooping cough does however have a few distinctive traits. These traits are most observable 1 to 2 weeks after first being exposed. 

  • Coughing fits that continue for long periods and are exhausting to the body. These coughing fits happen more at night. Also known as the 100 day cough. 
  • Gasping for breath after a coughing fit. They may make a “whooping” sound. This sound is where the name “whooping cough” comes from. Babies may not cough or make this sound—they may gag and gasp.
  • Difficulty breathing, eating, drinking, or sleeping because of coughing fits.
  • Turning blue (while coughing) from lack of oxygen.
  • Vomiting after coughing fits.

Sources & Citations

3. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Pertussis (whooping cough). Available at: (accessed 25 March 2020).

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis frequently asked questions. Available at: (accessed 25 March).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0136(1)a - Date of preparation May 2020