Pertussis In Children


Pertussis In Children (Inpatient Care) 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.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.


Pertussis is very easily spread to others. If your child has not had the DTaP shots, he may get pertussis. Pertussis may cause other serious health problems, most often in babies less than 1 year old. Your child could get pneumonia or an ear infection. Rarely, it may affect your child's brain. This could cause your child to have seizures, which may lead to brain damage. This can be life-threatening.


  • Blood gases: These tests are also called arterial blood gases (ABGs). Blood is taken from an artery usually in your child's wrist. ABGs may be done if your child has trouble breathing or other problems caused by his illness.

  • Blood tests: Your child may need blood tests to give caregivers information about how his body is working. The blood may be taken from your child's arm, hand, finger, foot, heel, or IV.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your child's lungs and heart. A chest x-ray may be used to check your child's heart, lungs, and chest wall. It can help caregivers diagnose your child's symptoms, or suggest or monitor treatment for medical conditions.

  • Emotional support: Stay with your child for comfort and support as often as possible while he is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.

  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often. This will help prevent the spread of germs. Encourage everyone in your house to wash their hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom. Also wash hands after changing diapers and before preparing or eating food.

  • Heart and Breathing Monitor: This may also be called a cardiorespiratory monitor. It is a painless test to see how your child's heart and lungs are working.

    • Sticky pads (3 or 5) are placed on different parts of the body. Each pad has a wire that is hooked to a TV-type screen. This screen shows a tracing of each heartbeat. Caregivers watch this tracing to make sure your child's heart is doing well.

    • The monitor has alarms which go off if your child's heart is beating too fast or too slow. The alarm will also go off if your child is breathing too fast or too slow.

  • An IV is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.

  • Medicines: Your child will get antibiotics if he is in the early stage of pertussis. Antibiotics may also be used if your child has another infection, like an ear or lung infection. Cough medicines are not helpful to treat the pertussis cough.

  • Oxygen: Your child may need oxygen if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Oxygen will help your child breathe easier. Your child may get oxygen through small tubes placed in his nostrils, or through a mask. He may instead be placed in an oxygen tent. Never take off your child's oxygen tubes or mask or remove him from the tent without asking his caregiver first.

  • Postural drainage (PD): This treatment uses body position and gravity to help bring up sputum (mucus) from your lungs. Your caregiver will place you in different positions to help the sputum drain to larger air passages. Then you can cough it out more easily. During postural drainage, your caregiver may also lightly clap on your back and chest with their hands, or use a small machine that vibrates on your skin. This breaks up the sputum in your lungs, making it easier to cough up. Postural drainage may make it easier for you to breathe, decrease the chance of infection, and help you get better faster.

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your child's foot, toe, hand, finger, or earlobe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your child's oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

  • Room: Your child will be kept away from others to keep from spreading the disease. Caregivers and others around your child will wear a face mask and gown.

  • Suction: This is a small tube that is placed in your child's mouth or nose. It will help suck out the mucus in your child's mouth or nose. This can help your child breathe easier. Saline drops may be put into your child's nose to loosen up some of the mucus. Your child may need his mouth or nose suctioned more than once.

  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your child's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask you or your child about his pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your child's current health.

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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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