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In general, treatment for whooping cough involves administering antibiotics and providing supportive care. Supportive care may include such things as admission to the hospital, breathing support from a ventilator, and good nursing care. Treatment is also recommended for anyone who comes in close physical contact with an infected person. Do not use over-the-counter cough medicines to try to cure whooping cough.

Whooping Cough Treatment: An Introduction

Whooping cough treatment typically involves antibiotics and supportive care, which refers to providing relief of symptoms and complications as the body fights the whooping cough bacteria (Bordetella pertussis). Doctors often recommend that anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person also receive whooping cough treatment.
People with whooping cough (pertussis) should avoid close contact with others (see below), particularly infants and children.

The Role of Antibiotics in Treating Whooping Cough

If treatment is begun early enough with antibiotics, the duration of whooping cough symptoms can be decreased. However, in most cases, treatment is not started early enough, so antibiotics do little to help the coughing illness. Antibiotics are still prescribed because they can kill the bacteria in the respiratory secretions, thereby decreasing the risk of spreading the bacteria.
Different antibiotics used for treating whooping cough include:

Supportive Care

Supportive care for whooping cough involves treating symptoms and complications that develop. The specific supportive treatment will depend on a number of factors, but can include:
  • Admission to the hospital
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Oxygen
  • Breathing support from a ventilator
  • Prevention of secondary infections
  • Good nursing care.
Do not use over-the-counter cough medicines to treat whooping cough. They are not usually effective in treating symptoms of whooping cough.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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