The incidence of pertussis shows an increasing trend in recent years, but some clinicians often lack sufficient understanding of the clinical characteristics and risk factors for severe pertussis, and more effective measures should be taken to reduce the incidence and mortality of pertussis in young infants METHODS: A retrospective study was conducted, and 184 infants and children with pertussis who had been hospitalized in the Department of Pediatrics of Beijing Ditan Hospital affiliated with Capital Medical University from January 2016 to December 2017 were included. Clinical data of the patients were collected and the clinical characteristics were statistically analyzed RESULTS: Among the 184 patients, 41.85% were infants < 3 months of age, and 65.22% of the total patients were not vaccinated against pertussis. There were 22 critically ill children, among whom 4 died, and compared with mild cases, they had a higher proportion of children younger than 3 months of age and infants not vaccinated against pertussis (63.64% vs. 38.89% and 100% vs. 60.49%, respectively); a higher proportion of children with severe pneumonia (100% vs. 0%); higher leukocyte count(× 109/L , 35.80 ± 20.53 vs 19.41 ± 8.59); and a higher proportion of children with severe hyperleukocytosis (18.18% vs. 0%, respectively) (P<0.05) CONCLUSIONS: 1. Infants aged <3 months not vaccinated for pertussis appear more likely to become infected and have more severe disease. 2. Severe pneumonia and hyperleukocytosis are the main mechanisms underlying severe pertussis.