The effect of age on the clinical presentation of pertussis was assessed in 664 adolescent and adult cases. Complications were more frequent in adults than in adolescents (28% vs. 16%). Pneumonia occurred in 2% of patients <30 years old but in 5%-9% of older patients. Urinary incontinence occurred in 34% of women >/=50 years old. Duration of cough, risk of sinusitis, and number of nights with disturbed sleep increased with smoking and asthma. The secondary attack rate in other household members >/=12 years was 11%. Pertussis in secondary case patients was less severe than in index case patients but presented with classic symptoms. The main source of infection in adolescents was schoolmates or friends; in adults it was workplace or their children. Teachers and health care workers had a greater risk of pertussis than did the general population. The burden of disease appears to increase with age, with smoking, and with asthma.