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 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.