Asthma UK community forum

Asthma or Whooping cough?

Hi Everyone

I was diagnosed with asthma 6 weeks ago and since then I have had this persistant cough. it has changed from the dry cough it started off as and after a week the doc said i had a chest infection (the cough was AWFUL then, vomitted frequently after coughing attacks in the night) but antibiotics took the edge off and the cough I was left with was dry again. But about a week ago it started to get worse again and have been feeling really exhausted and unwell with it too.

It didn't occur to me that it could be whooping cough until someone heard me and suggested it.

when i cough, it feels like I'm choking and i gasp for air inbetween barks. it sounds hideous, like i am coughing up a lung and my face goes bright red after (and my eyes water). my chest also feels like it it being sucked in. Could this be describing the cough that is a symptom of asthma - or is it more likey to be whooping cough? I'm particularly worried about the latter as I have been in contact with my four month old niece while having symptoms.

Will see doc asap but in the meantime, your opinions would be gratefully received!



6 Replies

Hi Lorri,

I posted a message on this board on exactly this subject only 2 days ago. I was in a similar situation to you for several months last year with a bad persistent cough that normally caused me to vomit. If your GP is anything like mine, you may have difficulty persuading them to consider a diagnosis of whooping cough. However if you google 'adult whooping cough' you will see a number of recent reports suggesting that whooping cough is seriously underreported in the adult population.

Like you, I was diagnosed with adult onset asthma, along with 4 other close family members, all rather coincidentally being diagnosed asthmatic within a few months of each other.



Hi Lorri and welcome to AUK.

Whilst whooping cough maybe seriously under-reported in the adult population, the number of people likely to catch whooping cough must still be extremely low. I am not saying you don’t have whooping cough, but it is unlikely.

Now you don’t say which type of medication you have been prescribed for your asthma. However, if you are like me (for example) and you have been prescribed a blue inhaler (reliever) for your asthma this would suggest that you do indeed have asthma, albeit that it may be cough variant asthma rather than conventional asthma which affects the lungs.

One simple ways to check if you have asthma is to see how you feel after you have taken your reliever. You see, the symptoms of asthma are reversible and by taking your reliever this should provide relief of your symptoms by opening up your respiratory system.

Now I know diddly about whooping cough, but I am pretty sure that the symptoms of whooping cough are not reversed by using a reliever. I believe patients with whooping cough are usually given antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Although, I suppose it is possible for someone to have both whooping cough and asthma. I think it is also possible for whooping cough to cause asthma by creating a window of vulnerability.

I believe a blood test would confirm diagnosis of whooping cough, if you think you might have it. Perhaps you should speak to your GP again.

BTW, the coughing symptoms (of asthma) can last for many weeks before the symptoms stabilise and start to reduce because the airways become raw/inflamed and highly sensitive to many airborne irritants/contaminants.

Take care,



About 5 years ago my sister-in-law and her two children aged 5 and 9 all had whooping cough around the same time (within a month of each other). They were prescriped relief inhalers for their coughs, which did help a bit but their coughs were quite persistant for about 6 months for the young ones and up to a year for my sister-in-law. The youngest, who was five at the time, now has full-blown asthma. The older child and my sister-in-law still suffer from asthma symptoms from time to time especially when they are fighting a cold or the flu. I am not sure if whooping cough can bring on asthma but it seemed to with their family. They were all put on antibiotics for a while in case of infection and were told to stay away from people who were sick or immunosupressed in any way. I had my children tested, they did a swab up their nose, and all were negative. If you do suspect whooping cough, you should demand a test just to be certain.



Lorri the best thing is to go to your local A&E centre. They can do all the bloods, x-rays and swabs. This will not only reassure you, it will confirm any diagnosis and give you correct treatment. With the new 4 hour rule you know you will be seen in and out in 4 hours.

Something esle to consider is COUGHING!!! I know might sound strange but with coughing and asthma is you dont breathe properly and huff instead of coughing you can actually make your asthma and cough worse. It is quite hard to explain in writing but can easeily be shown to you in A&E this alone may help your symptoms. This is not buteyeko method but true chest physio exercises.

Please go and get sorted!!



Hi again and thanks for all your posts - is good to hear what others think, especially when i'm so uncertain myself.

The cough seems to have improved today, it's still here but less frequent and not as ferocious, I literally ache from coughing at the weekend tho.

I have been prescribed and taking the blue inhaler (3x a day), the brown inhaler (twice a day) and Singulair 10mg 'Montelukast (as sodium salt) pills (once a night for the last three weeks). After a few days this did seem to help and I am no longer as breathless as i used to get, and the cough did ease up but it didn't last long, over a week ago it started to get worse again, culminating in posting my concerns on

The inhalers do help loosen up my chest, at least i think they do, but i can still have a bout of coughing even after taking two puffs.

I am going to see the doc tomorrow and will ask for a test to rule whooping cough out. I had blood tests and a chest xray done at the hospital when I was first diagnosed with asthma, but the cough has changed since then... seems so long ago...(woe is me).

Will update this thread once have seen doc! and thanks again for all your suggestions /support



Hi Lorri,

I'm glad you decided to ask your doctor to test for whooping cough - I wish I had been more insistent with my GP that I was tested.

I believe that a swab is taken from the back of the throat, and this is tested (in culture) for the Bordetella pertussis organism. However, it is unlikely that this will produce a positive result if you have had the organism in your body for more than 3 weeks. Tests to identify the DNA of the organism, or blood antibody tests are more likely to yield a positive result if you have had the illness for several weeks.

Whooping cough is highly contagious, and as Stevie's post suggests, it is easily passed between individuals who are in close contact with each other. Immunisation does not appear to give lifelong immunity to the disease either. The recent report shows that about 37.2% of children presenting with persistent coughs were infected with the whooping cough bacterium, despite the fact that 85.9% of these children had been immunised. I would not be surprised if a similar proportion of adults with persistent coughs also have the disease. I hope the researchers will continue to monitor the children, to see whether infection with the whooping cough bacterium has any effect on the numbers who are diagnosed with asthma.



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