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Whooping Cough (Pertussis) - Home Treatment

If your child has whooping cough (pertussis), the coughing spells can be scary. To help manage the symptoms, you can:

  • Create a quiet, calm, restful environment. Keep stimulation to a minimum to help reduce the number of coughing spells.
  • Control possible triggers of a coughing episode, such as smoke, dust, sudden noises or lights, or changes in temperature.
  • Give your child frequent, small sips of fluids and nutritious foods to provide needed energy that coughing uses up.
  • Use a humidifier in your child's room. But watch closely to see its effect. Sometimes humidity makes coughing spells worse, in which case it should be avoided. Dry, hot, or polluted air may make coughing spells worse.
  • Hold your child in a calming manner.
  • Have your child who is age 1 year or older lie on his or her side or stomach rather than the back. Lying on the back could trigger a coughing spell. If your baby is younger than 1 year old, talk to your baby's doctor about the best way to position your child.

Over-the-counter medicines, such as cough suppressants and antihistamines, have not been shown to help relieve symptoms.

If your child has whooping cough, he or she can go back to school or day care after 5 days of taking antibiotics. But if your child does not take antibiotics, have him or her wait 21 days after the start of symptoms before going back to school or day care.1


Frequent hand-washing is important to help prevent the spread of infection. Keep children away from people who have a bad cough, especially if it may be related to whooping cough. If you have whooping cough, take antibiotics for at least 5 days before being near young children. And don't return to work in schools, day care centers, or health facilities until after 5 days of antibiotics.

Immunizations are critical to preventing diseases such as pertussis from becoming widespread (epidemic) problems. Children start getting their immunizations against pertussisform.gif(What is a PDF document?) at age 2 months. A total of 5 shots (injections) are given at different times until ages 4 to 6 years. The vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are all in one shot called DTaP.

A tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) booster shotform.gif(What is a PDF document?) is needed for continued protection. Tdap is recommended at age 11 or 12. Teens and adults ages 13 to 64 who never got the Tdap shot should get it in place of a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) shot. And all teens and adults (including adults older than 64) who have or expect to have close contact with a baby less than 1 year old should get this shot. Adults age 65 and older can get one dose if they choose to do so. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 18, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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