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Pertussis In Children


Pertussis In Children (Aftercare Instructions) Care Guide

Pertussis is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. It is also called whooping cough. When your child has pertussis, his air passages get plugged with thick mucus, which causes coughing spells. Anyone can have pertussis, but it is most serious in babies and young children. It may be treated with antibiotic medicine during the early part of the illness. Pertussis can be prevented with DTaP and Tdap shots.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to kill the bacteria that cause pertussis. Give your child this medicine exactly as ordered by his primary healthcare provider. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotics unless directed by his primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or give your child leftover antibiotics that were given to him for another illness.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not helping or if he has side effects. Tell your child's primary healthcare provider if your child takes any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines he takes. Include the amounts, and when and why he takes them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's primary healthcare provider in 1 to 2 days:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care for your child:

Your child's cough could last 10 weeks or longer. It may be worse at night. Coughing helps keep mucus from clogging his lungs.

  • Keep your child's airways clear: Use a bulb syringe to gently clean your baby's nose. Wash the bulb syringe after each use. Clean your baby's nose before breast or bottle feeding so he can breathe easier while feeding. You may need to feed your baby smaller amounts more often if he gets tired during feedings. Clean your baby's nose before you put him down to sleep.

  • Help your child during a coughing spell: If your child has a coughing spell, put him on his side in the crib or bed. This is a safe position because it will keep your child from choking if he vomits. You may also hold your child in a sitting position during a coughing spell. Help your coughing child sit up and lean forward if he is older. This makes it easier to cough and bring up mucus from the lungs.

  • Use a humidifier: Run a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your child's room.

  • Keep your child hydrated: Ask your child's primary healthcare provider how much liquid your child should drink each day. Try to give him small amounts of liquids every hour when he is awake, even if he has throat pain.

  • Help your child get adequate nutrition: Encourage your child to eat many small meals every day. Eating small meals may keep your child from vomiting after a coughing spell. To calm his stomach, wait a short while to feed him after a coughing spell.

  • Let your child rest: Your child should rest as much as possible. Try to keep him calm. His breathing and coughing may become worse if he is crying.

  • Keep your child away from smoke: Do not let anyone smoke around your child. Keep your child away from wood-burning stoves or fireplaces. His breathing and coughing may get worse if he is near smoke.

  • Keep your child away from other people: Until your child has been on antibiotics for several days, your child is contagious. Let friends, your child's school or daycare, and other family members who have been around your child know that he has pertussis. They may need treatment to prevent getting sick.

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child is not drinking liquids.

  • Your child's cough is getting worse.

  • Your child is tugging his ears or has ear pain.

  • Your child is not sleeping or resting because of the cough.

  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has been vomiting and cannot keep anything down.

  • Your child has the following signs of dehydration:

    • Crying without tears

    • Dry mouth, tongue, or cracked lips

    • Fussiness, sleepiness or dizziness

    • Sunken soft spot on the top of his head (if your baby is less than 1 year old)

    • Urinating less

    • Wrinkled skin

  • Your child has more severe coughing spells, is short of breath, breathing faster than normal, or working hard to breathe.

  • Your child's skin between his ribs or above his breast bone pulls in with each breath.

  • Your child's lips or fingernails are blue or white.

  • Your child's nostrils are flaring with each breath.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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