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Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection with primarily respiratory symptoms. Its ability to easily spread through physical contact and coughing or sneezing makes it highly contagious.

While it is not as pervasive as it once was thanks to the rising use of vaccinations, there is still a chance your child may be infected by unvaccinated children at school or elsewhere.

Parents must do their part to vaccinate children as early as possible, but should also be prepared to address the symptoms of whooping cough in the event that their child gets infected.

Vaccines Are a Very Good Idea

Remaining vigilant about your child's health and safety can help prevent whooping cough before it starts. The best way to prevent your child from getting pertussis is to get them vaccinated at an early age.

I recommend vaccines for pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus be administered when your child reaches 2 months old.

Whooping Cough Treatment at Home

Parents should take some comfort in knowing that treating whooping cough can be done at home with proper medications.

Whooping cough is caused by a bacterial infection, meaning it can only be safely and effectively treated with antibiotics. In order to obtain a prescription for the antibiotic medication your child needs, you will need to visit your primary care physician for an examination to verify your child's symptoms.

Parents should NOT supplement a child's prescription medication with over the counter medicines for the cold or flu. Not only do these medications fail to treat the symptoms of pertussis, but they can also pose additional health risks for your child depending on their age or pre-existing conditions.

In general, it's best to consult your primary care physician before giving your child any type of medication–prescription or over-the-counter. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label exactly to determine the size and frequency of each dose. Also keep in mind that missing just a single dose of a prescription medication — especially antibiotics  — can extend the life of the infection.

Some symptoms that accompany whooping cough can be eased without any medication at all. For example, if your child develops a harsh cough, then a humidifier can be added to their room to improve moisture in the air. Also consider the use of products like vapor rub that have the potential to improve breathing.

Treating Severe Cases of Whooping Cough

In some cases the symptoms of pertussis can become very severe, especially in young children and elderly adults who are more susceptible to getting very sick with otherwise curable illnesses.

In the event that your child's case is severe, parents should understand that an overnight hospital visit in intensive care may be necessary to provide a more controlled environment for treatment. This may involve intubation and the use of a ventilator to assist with breathing until the infection clears. That is why it is so important to get your child vaccinated and seek treatment at the first sign of pertussis symptoms.

For more information about whooping vaccines and treatment, schedule an appointment with a Methodist primary care physician today.

Margo Anderson-Fowler, MD

Dr. Anderson-Fowler enjoys caring for patients of all ages. She has a special interest in the Mind/Body/Spirit connection for health. She tries to understand her patients' family dynamics and how this may affect their health. She feels a physician should be totally engaged with the patient and see him or her as an individual. She believes every person just wants to be heard so she listens carefully to her patients' concerns and tries to offer them the best care possible so they can reach thei ...

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