Can I Exercise With Whooping Cough?

Occasional outbreaks of whooping cough, also called pertussis, are thought to be on the rise in the United States 1. Infections are most common among very young children and adults who may have compromised immune systems. Whooping cough causes intense, extreme bouts of coughing, which make it is nearly impossible for adults to engage in any sort of vigorous exercis 1e

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Whooping Cough

As an airborne, highly contagious bacterial infection, whooping cough gets its name from the sound you make when experiencing uncontrollable coughing 1. Whooping cough is most contagious early in the infection, so taking antibiotics and quarantining yourself are the most important steps you can take in preventing the spread of the disease 1. The pertussis bacteria infects your trachea – also called the windpipe -- and bronchi leading from the windpipe into your lungs, producing thick mucus that impedes breathing and provokes intense coughing. Tthe entire respiratory system is affected.

Whooping Cough Symptoms

It's typical for symptoms of whooping cough to occur in three phases: Initially, there is congestion and mild fever; then lessening of cold-like symptoms but with an increase in coughing; finally, an improvement in overall health but with louder, more intense coughing spells that become much more frequent 1. Sometimes the coughing spell is so severe you may vomit or become dizzy. While adults who suffer from whooping cough generally recover, young children with immature immune systems have been known to die 1.

Exercising with Whooping Cough

If you have been diagnosed with whooping cough, you should not engage in exercise 1. Complications involving shortness of breath, bruised or cracked ribs from coughing, and even cerebral hemorrhage are all possible from the force of uncontrollable coughing. Exercise would only exacerbate these risks. Hernias have occurred during bouts of coughing. Exercise that is more vigorous than everyday activity will only aggravate pertussis and delay your recovery from the illness. Getting sufficient rest, drinking plenty of fluids and remaining on a program of antibiotics such as azithromycin or erythromycin are the best ways to ensure elimination of the bacteria.


Once you have recovered from whooping cough, exercise routines undertaken should be light to moderate, with frequent breaks and sufficient hydration 1. If you experience coughing or feelings of dizziness while exercising, you should stop immediately and sit down until the coughing spell is over. You should discontinue exercise at this point, as this renewed bout of coughing indicates you have not yet fully recovered.