Treatment - Whooping cough in babies and children

If your child has whooping cough, they might:

  • need a stay in hospital - if they're under 6 months old or very sick
  • be given antibiotics to take at home - if the infection is diagnosed in the first 3 weeks

If they've had whooping cough for more than 3 weeks, they'll no longer be contagious and may not need any treatment.

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 until they feel well again
  • make sure they rest and drink lots of fluids
  • do not worry if they do not feel like eating much

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your Pharmacist if:

  • your child is uncomfortable with pain or a fever

They may recommend liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen (if your child is older than 3 months).

Important

Do not give your child cough medicine. It's not suitable for young children and will not help whooping cough.

Stop the infection spreading

You can help prevent whooping cough from spreading by:

  • keeping your child away from crèche or school until 5 days after they start taking antibiotics
  • letting the childcare or school know that your child has been diagnosed with whooping cough - 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 their hands with soap and water
  • avoiding having visitors at home
  • making sure your family are up to date with all the recommended vaccinations

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.

For example:

  • babies under 6 months
  • children who have 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.

Page last reviewed: 23 January 2023
Next review due: 23 January 2026