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A patient's journey: whooping cough

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 08 March 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:532
  1. Ros Levenson, patient
  1. London
  • Accepted 10 January 2007

Recently I had whooping cough. This has now been confirmed by the results of a blood test. I was in little doubt about the diagnosis from the beginning. However, my experience suggests that, despite considerable literature on the prevalence of whooping cough in adults, the diagnosis is still not one that doctors readily think of when they are faced with an adult rather than an infant or child.

I can well understand why the general practitioners I saw in the first couple of weeks did not diagnose whooping cough at once. I am aware that the duration of the symptoms, as well as the nature of the symptoms themselves, is important, and there were more obvious diagnoses that sprang to mind. However, when I experienced the first two or three terrifying paroxysmal coughing sessions, I knew it was a cough unlike anything I had had previously and said so. It also reminded me of my daughter's whooping cough when she was a toddler, many years ago. I was also very struck by the information on the website of Dr Doug Jenkinson (, which gave descriptions that matched my symptoms exactly. As a result, I spoke to the general practitioner who had first seen me and asked if he thought it could possibly be whooping cough. I also asked another general practitioner whom I saw a week or so later. In both cases their answer was similar: it was unlikely to be whooping cough as it is rare in adults.

On a visit to a chest clinic soon after this, I again raised the possibility of whooping cough. Once more this was thought to be highly unlikely. It was only on my return visit, when I felt just about well enough to be …

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