Table 2.

Stages of Pertussis Infection24

DurationCharacteristic Signs and Symptoms
Incubation period7 to 10 days (range, 4 to 21 days)
Catarrhal stage7 to 14 daysInsidious onset of coryza, sneezing, and a mild, nonspecific cough that gradually becomes more severe
In infants: excessive sneezing or ‘throat clearing’
Paroxysmal stage1 to 6 weeks (up to 10 weeks)Bursts, or paroxysms, of numerous, rapid coughs followed by a long inspiratory effort often associated with a high-pitched whoop; post-tussive vomiting.
In infants: paroxysms of coughing, but may not have sufficient musculature to develop a whoop. In addition, they may experience gagging, gasping, or eye bulging, and occasionally bradycardia or cyanosis.
Convalescent stageWeeks to monthsRecovery gradual, with cough becoming less paroxysmal and then disappearing. Fever is generally minimal