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Whooping Cough (Pertussis): Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is a respiratory infection. You may be sneezing and coughing and have a runny nose and fever. What makes pertussis different from other illnesses with these symptoms is that the cough takes a long time to go away. The other symptoms will gradually go away, but the cough may get worse and last a long time.

You may have a cough for weeks or even months. A coughing spell may last for a minute or more. In between coughing spells, you may feel very tired. Your doctor may give you antibiotics to control the spread of the bacteria to other people. But even with the antibiotics, you may keep coughing.

Whooping cough can spread quickly from person to person. Other family members may need to be immunized to prevent the spread of the disease. You can prevent or decrease the severity of whooping cough in your family by keeping your family's immunizations up to date.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Avoid contact with smoke and dust.
  • Keep away from other people, especially children, while you are ill.
  • Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of infection.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse trouble breathing.
  • You cough up dark brown or bloody mucus (sputum).
  • You have a new or higher fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better after 2 weeks.
  • Your cough gets worse.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.