Whooping Cough (Pertussis): Care Instructions

Skip Navigation


Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is a disease that causes severe coughing. You may also have symptoms that are similar to those of a common cold, such as a cough, a runny nose, and a fever.

You may have a cough for weeks or even months. A coughing spell may last a long time. You may feel very tired in between coughing spells.

Your doctor may give you antibiotics to control the spread of the bacteria. But even with the antibiotics, you may keep coughing.

This disease can spread quickly from person to person. You can prevent or decrease the severity of whooping cough in your family by keeping their 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 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 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.
  • Have frequent, small sips of fluids and nutritious foods.
  • Keep away from other people, especially children, while you are ill.
  • Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of infection.
  • Create a calm, quiet, restful place for yourself.
  • Lie on your side or stomach instead of your back.

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 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 if:

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

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter Z957 in the search box to learn more about "Whooping Cough (Pertussis): Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.