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Pertussis in Children


Pertussis, or whooping cough, is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. Your child's air passages narrow and get plugged with thick mucus. This may cause him or her to have coughing spells. Anyone can have pertussis, but it is most serious in babies and young children. A baby may get pertussis before he or she is old enough to get the shots to prevent the infection. Pertussis is caused by bacteria. It is easily spread in the air when someone with pertussis coughs or sneezes.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

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.


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

Isolation precautions:

Your child will be kept away from others to prevent him or her from spreading the disease. Healthcare providers and others around your child will wear a face mask and gown. Visitors should wash their hands before leaving to prevent the spread of germs.


  • 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.
  • A heart monitor , or EKG, records your child's heart rhythm and how fast his or her heart beats.


  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling, pain, and fever.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever.
  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent a bacterial infection.


  • Blood gases 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 or her illness.
  • Blood tests will help your child's healthcare provider find out if he or she has an infection.
  • A chest x-ray may be done to look for signs of infection, such as pneumonia.


  • Extra oxygen may be needed if your child's blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his or her nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his or her nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Postural drainage (PD) is a treatment that uses body position and gravity to help bring up sputum (mucus) from your child's lungs. His or her healthcare provider will place him or her in different positions to help the sputum drain to larger air passages. Then he or she can cough it out more easily. Your child's healthcare provider may also lightly clap on your child's back and chest with his or her hands. He or she may use a small machine that vibrates on your child's skin. This breaks up the sputum in his or her lungs. Postural drainage may make it easier for your child to breathe, decrease the chance of infection, and help him or her get better faster.
  • Suction may also be used. 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 some of the mucus. Your child may need his or her mouth or nose suctioned more than one time.


Pertussis can spread to others easily. Your child may get an ear infection or pneumonia. Pertussis can cause serious problems in babies younger than 1 year. Rarely, pertussis may cause seizures. Pertussis can be life-threatening.


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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.

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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.

Learn more about Pertussis in Children (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.