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Treatment for whooping cough

If your child has whooping cough, they might:

  • need a stay in hospital - if they're under 6 months old or very poorly
  • be given antibiotics to take at home - if the infection is diagnosed in the first 3 weeks
  • not need any treatment - if they've had whooping cough for more than 3 weeks (they'll no longer be contagious)

Care for your child at home

If your child is at home with whooping cough, then:

  • keep them at home until they've been on antibiotics for 5 days or they feel well again
  • make sure they rest and drink lots of fluids
  • don't worry if they don't feel like eating much
  • give them liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring down their high temperature
  • don't give them cough medicine - it's not suitable for young children

Stop the infection spreading

You can help prevent whooping cough from spreading by:

  • keeping them away from crèche or school until 5 days after they start taking antibiotics
  • letting the creche, childminder or school know that your child has been diagnosed with whooping cough, so they can let other
  • parents know what to look out for
  • covering their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze
  • throwing away used tissues immediately
  • washing your hands and your child's hands with soap and water
  • avoiding having visitors at home

Whooping cough spreads when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes. It's most contagious during the first 3 weeks of the cough. While they're still contagious, keep your child away from:

  • other children
  • pregnant women
  • older people
  • anyone with health problems

Other people at home might need to take antibiotics to stop them getting infected, such as:

  • babies under 6 months
  • children who've not been vaccinated
  • pregnant women
  • health or childcare workers
  • people with health or immune system problems

Talk to your GP or your local Department of Public Health if there is anyone at home who falls into these categories.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 04/12/2018
Next review due: 04/12/2021