How is whooping cough (pertussis) treated?

James D. Cherry, MD
A child who has whooping cough (pertussis) will need plenty of fluids to drink and specific antibiotics. Early diagnosis of pertussis (whooping cough) in both children and adults is important because the illness can be shortened by specific medications. Young infants with pertussis will usually require hospital admission, often in a pediatric intensive care unit. 

In addition to making sure their child gets the proper care, parents should be vigilant about making sure their child does not spread it to other children. It is also important that doctors do a better job of recognizing and treating pertussis and that everyone (children, adolescents and adults) gets vaccinated.
There are several treatment options for whooping cough. Most mild cases of whooping cough in adults are treated with antibiotics. Due to the increased mortality risk, most infants with whooping cough are hospitalized in an isolated unit and given IV fluids and sedatives. Babies with a severe case of whooping cough may require a tube in their windpipe to help them breathe. Secretions in the lungs may be suctioned out. Some people need additional oxygen.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.