How do you pronounce “whooping cough” and why is it called that? Plus, learn its symptoms

Whooping cough, known by its medical name pertussis, has been in the news lately due to its disturbing reemergence. So far this year, nearly 1,500 cases have been reported in California alone. An infant died of the disease on Tuesday in Los Angeles County.

Pertussis is an infectious illness of the respiratory mucous membrane  characterized by a series of short, severe coughs that are often followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds likewhoop.” The disease is named after this sound: whoop derives from the Old French houper, “to cry out, “  and goes back to at least 1460.

Whooping is correctly pronounced as “hoo-ping.”

Ironically, a whoop is defined as both a joyful cry and also has the sound made by someone infected with the disease.

Something that is not worth a whoop is worthless. And the expression to whoop it up means to celebrate noisily, to raise a disturbance, or to stir up enthusiasm. Whoop de doo is a way of saying “big deal.” Then there are whoopie cushions, whoopie cakes, and whoopie pie (a confection of two small and flat chocolate cakes with cream frosting in the middle, famous in New England.) And of course, there is the whooping crane, “a white North American crane, Grus americana,  having a loud, whooping call.”

For the first half of the 20th century, whooping cough was a leading cause of childhood illness and death. A successful vaccine program largely eradicated the problem.

Early symptoms of whooping cough resemble those of a common cold, such as sneezing, a dry cough, and watery eyes. But after a week or two, symptoms worsen. Prolonged coughing attacks may cause a red or blue face, vomiting, and, of course, the tell tale whoop sound.

One thing is for certain, no one is whooping it up over the rise in pertussis.

Research from A. Chaffee et al Broadens Understanding of Sport Rehabilitation.(Report)

Health & Medicine Week June 20, 2011 Research findings, “Responsiveness of the VAS and McGill pain questionnaire in measuring changes in musculoskeletal pain,” are discussed in a new report. “Pain, caused by injury, is one of the main reasons patients seek the guidance of health care providers. However, because pain is subjective, it may be difficult to accurately measure the pain level a patient is experiencing and observe changes over time,” scientists writing in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation report (see also Sport Rehabilitation).

“Pain may have negative consequences for active individuals such as athletes, including decreased functionality and loss of participation time. Therefore, it is important to determine and document pain status on a frequent basis to help reduce these outcomes. Although there are several pain scales available to clinicians, the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) and the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) are frequently used. Currently, it is unknown which outcome measurement for monitoring pain is optimal in the care of active patients,” wrote A. Chaffee and colleagues. go to web site at still university in our site at still university

The researchers concluded: “Understanding active patients’ pain levels may help sports rehabilitation clinicians in acute injury management and in determining the appropriate progression of rehabilitation.” Chaffee and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation (Responsiveness of the VAS and McGill pain questionnaire in measuring changes in musculoskeletal pain. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 2011;20(2):250-5).

Additional information can be obtained by contacting A. Chaffee, Athletic Training Program, AT Still University, Mesa, AZ, United States.

The publisher of the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation can be contacted at: Human Kinetics Publ Inc., 1607 N Market St., Champaign, IL 61820-2200, USA.


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  3. Rosalie Tascarella -  May 26, 2013 - 4:42 am

    I had whooping cough as a very young child, and to this day can still remember the frightening feeling of not being able to “catch my breath” in between coughing.

  4. Sara -  December 29, 2012 - 11:17 am

    I have corrected newscasters and even sent them the pronounciation so they could hear it. Then another does the same thing. Probably due to Whoopi Goldberg’s popularity.

  5. Carole -  February 18, 2012 - 11:34 am

    Thank you for the information. It bothers me that the word has been incorrectly pronounced by television commentators and advertisements.

    I had (w)hooping cough as a child and have always pronounced it correctly. Hence, the childhood rhyme ” Away down yonder, not a long way off; the blue jay died with the (w)hooping cough and he (w)hooped so hard with the (w)hooping cough, that he (w)hooped his head and his tail right off!” :)

  6. Janice -  October 17, 2011 - 3:21 pm

    I agree with Samie1, every time I hear the newscasters pronounce whooping cough with a “W” I want to scream, why oh why aren’t they corrected ?

    • Bruce Hamilton -  December 21, 2014 - 10:32 pm

      dictionary.com says either pronunciation is acceptable.

    • Gayle -  June 9, 2015 - 6:51 pm

      You are correct!! /ˈhuː.pɪŋˌkɒf/ The w is silent. It makes me so mad to hear these people pronounce it wrong too.

      • Gayle -  June 9, 2015 - 6:55 pm

        Sorry, you are wrong!!! The W is silent: /ˈhuː.pɪŋˌkɒf/

        • Chris -  August 19, 2015 - 9:54 am

          No, Gayle, you are wrong. It can be pronounced both ways. Look it up.
          “whooping cough whoop·ing cough (hōō’pĭng, hwōō’-, wōō’-, hup’ĭng) “

      • Ginny, RN -  June 25, 2015 - 5:56 am

        I am amazed at how many young nurses call it whoop instead of hooping cough. Look it up and get it correct. Whooping cough is the Brittish pronunciation. The American word, the w is silent.

        • LIN -  August 23, 2015 - 8:01 pm

          I am English and I was brought up saying Whooping without the W.

  7. Samie1 -  October 2, 2011 - 2:05 pm

    Someone should let the newscasters on ALL the TV stations know that whooping cough is pronounced hoo-ping not whooping as in whooping crane. Everytime I hear them prounounce it whooping, I want to scream, “Doesn’t anyone do any research?”

    • Gayle -  June 9, 2015 - 6:54 pm

      /ˈhuː.pɪŋˌkɒf/ W is silent. It is not used both ways!! He is wrong!

  8. Ramona Cummings -  November 18, 2010 - 11:56 am

    Katie Couric and the pediatrician on the news pronounced whooping cough with the wh…I have always heard it hoo-ping.

  9. Genesis -  July 23, 2010 - 3:45 am

    @Dr A, can Magnesium really help asthmatics? Can you suggest anything for children/toddlers?

  10. Mapanlawin -  July 22, 2010 - 7:55 pm

    Nice. Thanks Dr. A

  11. jaydeb -  July 22, 2010 - 12:41 am

    wopping cough. y don,t you put sumtink intelligent on this.

  12. N -  July 22, 2010 - 12:29 am

    Vaccination as an infant is a very, very good idea, but the immunity can wear off by the time you get to high school. (Talking here only about whooping cough, not all diseases.) Fortunately the symptoms tend to be less severe by teenage years, and into adulthood. A particularly severe (extended) coughing fit can kill a younger kid, or cause brain damage from oxygen deprivation.

    There is a blood test to confirm pertussis. Dr A – have you had that child tested to confirm it is pertussis each time? Although a single bout of pertussis can last three months (with symptoms flaring up and settling down several times in that period) you normally end up with some immunity (as with other childhood diseases). Either way it sounds like that child has some immune system issues…

  13. Melanie -  July 21, 2010 - 10:34 pm

    I had probably had pertussis a year or two ago. I was put on antibiotics for bronchitis, but it didn’t clear up. The doc thought it was pertussis. It took about 6 weeks, and even then there was a small bit of residual. I found out that there isn’t usually the “whooping” sound in adults, but mostly with children.
    A friend of mine’s daughter couldn’t handle the vaccine, and she ended up with it, and all of her family contracted it (even the vaccinated ones) although the daughter that had not been vaccinated had the more severe case.

  14. Terri -  July 21, 2010 - 9:56 pm

    Where would a person obtain Magnesium? I have asthma, normally mild, but the past 2 weeks it has been terrible!

  15. Harish -  July 21, 2010 - 9:31 pm

    We had thought we had eradicated it. But the germs have been waiting for us all these decades, secretly plotting against mankind. When we let our guard down, they attacked us. Mankind! Rise in Defence! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!

  16. Beansy -  July 21, 2010 - 8:13 pm

    Note to Tabby: I believe the story you are referring to is “Weaving of a Dream,” which I read maybe 15 years ago. I have also forgotten the ending, so now I will have to look it up again.

  17. Gabriel Oddin -  July 21, 2010 - 6:58 pm

    Thanks Dr. A

  18. Kim -  July 21, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    Thanks for the information.

  19. Dr A -  July 21, 2010 - 4:49 pm

    I have a child prone to this disease and it is not nice. It always seems to be a secondary thing, that is, when he already has a cold or something however small. We have found that as soon as he shows signs of a cold if he has magnesium it prevents the Whooping Cough developing. Magnesium would also prevent or at least help Asthma in 70% of people.

  20. Tabby -  July 21, 2010 - 3:10 pm

    There is a fable about a crane that it was relieved by a old couple out of predicament in a remote mountain. When it was taken care of and got well, it told them not to come into the room till it opens a door.
    The crane was weaving at the loom out of its feathers paying in return for their kindness, but the old couple had incurable peeping desire so they did. The crane got flabbergasted. How the story end is that I forgot.

  21. Bedazz'elle -  July 21, 2010 - 2:30 pm

    I had whooping cough and it was sooooooooooo TERRIBLE! AWFUL! SCARY! I was a young child and i remember the whoops were almost like severe hic-cups and I could not catch my breath. My mom thought i was kidding around at first and laughed at me, until she saw I was in serious distress and turning blue. She called 911 and they came and gave me a breathing treatment. I will never forget that day. I remember my chest hurt for a few days after the ordeal. I am so sad a infant died of it! I dont wish it on anyone and i hope it dont spread any further!

  22. md -  July 21, 2010 - 2:00 pm

    Whooping cough may be pronounced as “hooping,” but the other instances of “whoop” are not.

  23. Nancy -  July 21, 2010 - 1:34 pm

    I guess that means Whoopie Goldberg is mispronouncing her name as well.

  24. Terry -  July 21, 2010 - 1:10 pm

    It should be noted that the words whoop and whooping are often (alternatively and correctly) pronounced “hwoop” and “hwooping”. And, I’ve never heard the term, “making whoopie” pronounced without an audible “w”. It’s most commonly pronounced “hwoopee” or “woopee” sometimes even “whupee”.

  25. Liza -  July 21, 2010 - 12:55 pm

    I think i had that once it was a nasty thing.

  26. Vijay -  July 21, 2010 - 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the info. It feels really nice to know such important health related words and their meaning….

  27. p -  July 21, 2010 - 12:22 pm

    I’ve never heard any of these, except perhaps the cough, pronounced the way indicated here. I’m going to start correcting people.

    And “making whoopie,” not mentioned here, is even the title of a song, in which it is pronounced incorrectly as well.

  28. The One You Hate -  July 21, 2010 - 11:46 am

    Nice that you forgot that it can brek your ribs if the case is severe.

  29. April -  July 21, 2010 - 11:28 am

    Thank you, that was very informative.


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