Whooping cough is a chronic cough resulting from an infection with the bacteria Bordetella Pertussis. The cough resulting from the infection may last several weeks, and as such whooping cough is sometimes called the 100 day cough.

Why is it that the Bordetealla Pertussis infection produces a cough that lasts so long compared to other infections, and is there anything that can be done to reduce the cough's duration?

  • I'm starting week 6 of the coughing, and so tired of it. Thanks for the answers about why the cough lingers. The worst part is how exhausted you get from not being able to sleep. It's much worse at night. I encourage older people like myself (age 53) to get your booster shot for pertussis. I was immunized, but didn't get a booster, and it was no fun contracting this at my age. Worst sickness I've ever had. Jan 25, 2020 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


As you have noted, the "paroxysmal" stage of a clinical case of pertussis, which involves the rapid, exhausting coughing fits and the characteristic "whoop" at the end can often be extremely long. While it usually lasts 1-6 weeks, it can persist for up to 10 weeks, followed by a convalescent period.

One reason for the long duration of the cough is that by the time one has reached that phase of disease, they are largely beyond the help of antibiotics, which will not shorten the clinical course of the disease in infected patients, but are intended to prevent its transmission to others.

Additionally, the actual mechanism of action for pertussis helps making the coughing longer. Bordetalla pertussis infect the upper respiratory system and bind to the lining of your respiratory system, decreasing the movement of your cilia, which serve to help clear mucous from your lungs. They also produce toxins which can cause inflammation and damage the cilia. As a result, even once the bacteria are dead, there is lingering damage to your respiratory system that will result in continued coughing.


As you mentioned, whooping cough is caused by Bordetella pertussis. It proves to be a very stubborn diseases especially in children.

Why this cough lasts so long?

There could be many reasons.

Firstly, the bacteria attach themselves to the cells lining the airways and then gradually spread all over. The area of lungs and airway is quite large and it gives them all playground to multiple and have greater impact.

Secondly, it is a specialty of this bacterium that even if it is treated and terminated, the coughing remains for long term.

Patient.co.uk writes:

Bordetella pertussis bacteria affect the lining of the airways in some way to cause symptoms (mainly a cough) to continue for a long time after the bacteria have gone.

This could be due to the damage they made and the healing time our body requires. I may not deny the theory that affected area might have some residuals of the microorganisms that might be causing 'irritation' to the throat that ultimately produces coughing.

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