Also known as pertussis, this highly contagious disease is spread by coughing or sneezing. "It starts like a cold with a runny nose, sneezing and fever," says Sandra Fryhofer, M.D., past president of the American College of Physicians. "It progresses to severe coughing that lasts for weeks." The coughing spells are so violent you may vomit. Kids often inhale with "whooping" sounds when coughing. Babies less than a year old tend to have the most serious complications, including death.
What to do: In 2010 several states reported an increase in whooping cough cases, so see your doctor if you're hacking for more than a week. Get a booster shot (or vaccine) and vaccinate your children to reduce your risk of getting sick or infecting your little ones because babies are often infected by parents, siblings or caregivers before they know they have pertussis.