Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Diagnosing whooping cough in its early stages can be difficult because the signs and symptoms resemble those of other common respiratory illnesses, such as a cold, the flu or bronchitis.

Sometimes, doctors can diagnose whooping cough simply by asking about symptoms and listening to the cough. Medical tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Such tests may include:

  • A nose or throat culture and test. Your doctor takes a nose or throat swab or suction sample. The sample is then checked for evidence of the presence of whooping cough bacteria.
  • Blood tests. A blood sample may be drawn and sent to a lab to check for a high white blood cell count. White blood cells help the body fight infections, such as whooping cough. A high white blood cell count typically indicates the presence of infection or inflammation. This is a general test and not specific for whooping cough.
  • A chest X-ray. Your doctor may order an X-ray to check for the presence of inflammation or fluid in the lungs, which can occur when pneumonia complicates whooping cough and other respiratory infections.
Mar. 19, 2013