More than 2,500 suspected whooping cough infections have been diagnosed by GPs so far in 2024 after a spike in cases.

This is according to the latest figures by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in their notifications of infectious diseases (NOIDs) report. 

Health and nutrition experts from Verve have shared all you need to know about the illness, its symptoms and top tips for building your immune system.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough - sometimes known as the “100-day cough” - is a bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes.

It spreads very easily and can sometimes cause serious problems. If you have whooping cough, you're contagious from around 6 days after the start of cold-like symptoms to 3 weeks after the coughing starts.


Early signs of whooping cough are similar to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat.

After about a week, symptoms can include:

  • Coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are worse at night
  • Making a "whoop" sound – a gasp for breath between coughs (young babies and some adults may not "whoop")
  • Having difficulty breathing after a coughing bout and may turn blue or grey (young infants)
  • Bringing up a thick mucus, which can make you vomit
  • Becoming very red in the face (more common in adults)
  • Coughing that lasts for several weeks or months

Recommended reading:

Signs and symptoms of whooping cough sweeping through UK

Whooping cough in the UK mapped amid rise in cases

100 day cough UK: Whooping cough symptoms and treatment

Tips to boost your immune system

Fortunately, there are quite a few ways you can boost your immunity, building up your body's defences. Health and nutrition experts from Verve have shared some tips that will give your immune system a boost so that viral or bacterial infections won’t be as long-lasting or hard-hitting:

  • A balanced diet to ensure you have the right nutrients
  • Sufficient sleep for recovery and repair
  • Regular exercise
  • Staying hydrated
  • Prioritising personal hygiene (such as washing hands regularly)
  • Cutting back on caffeine/alcohol as they implicate sleep
  • Mental wellness activities to reduce stress

Getting enough sleep is essential for a strong immune system as it allows time for the body to repair itself. Most people need around seven hours a night - otherwise, you’re more likely to fall prey to illness. 

Eating a diet full of fruit, vegetables, lean protein, beans, lentils, whole grains, dairy and a handful of nuts and seeds is also great for the immune system.

A balanced diet ensures you have a varied intake of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium, which are vital for the proper functioning of the immune system. They help the body fight off infections and maintain overall health.

It’s important to keep ourselves mentally refreshed too. There are numerous benefits for immune health when incorporating regular exercise and socialisation into your routine. Going for a run, or having a catch-up with a friend can help with stress reduction, improved circulation, enhanced immune cell activity, and better mental well-being.