Symptoms. The early symptoms of whooping cough resemble the common cold. The person has a runny nose, a dry cough that becomes productive and a mild fever. As the disease progresses, the person is racked by spasms of coughing that can last as long as a minute. The coughing may be accompanied by vomiting. Because the person can’t take in oxygen, their face turns red or blue. At the end of each spasm, the patient makes a whooping sound as they struggle for breath. This gives the disease its common name.