Pertussis physical examination

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aditya Govindavarjhulla, M.B.B.S. [2];

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The physical examination of a patient with pertussis is usually unremarkable. Low grade fever, cyanosis, and conjunctival hemorrhages may be observed. Involvement of the lower respiratory tract indicates another underlying or concomitant process.

Physical Examination

  • The physical examination of a patient with pertussis is usually unremarkable.
  • It may help rule out other upper or lower respiratory tract infections.

Appearance of the Patient

  • Patients with pertussis usually appear ill.[1]
  • Exhaustion is common due to the intensity of coughing paroxysms and potential vomiting fits.

Vital Signs

  • Low grade fever is often present in pertussis patients during the catarrhal stage.[1]
  • Fever is usually absent in most patients at the time of presentation (usually in paroxysmal stage)


  • Cyanosis can be present due to the intense coughing. [2]
  • Bruising can occur due to the coughing paroxysms.



  • Lungs are usually clear, signs of lower tract infection in not consistent with pertussis and may indicate another concomitant or underlying process.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "CDC - Pertussis: Clinical Features".
  2. "Pinkbook | Pertussis | Epidemiology of Vaccine Preventable Diseases | CDC".

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