Whooping Cough Treatments for Babies and Children: A Parent’s Guide

on May 29th, 2023
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in Health Information and Tips

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), approximately 24.1 million people contract whooping cough, with 160,700 deaths worldwide annually. Whooping cough is significantly fatal for infants younger than 3 months.

Between 2012 and 2020, at least 20 babies died from whooping cough each year in the United States. Fortunately, treatment is available, with early intervention yielding the best results. It’s also important to note that most babies are infected by older siblings, parents, and caregivers who may be unaware of their condition.

If left untreated, infants 6 months and younger can develop complications, including pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and weight loss due to breathing difficulties. 

If your child exhibits whooping cough symptoms, consider visiting a trusted urgent care center for quality and timely care.


Fighting Whooping Cough: How Parents Can Help Their Children Find Relief

Antibiotics are one of the effective treatment options for whooping cough; however, you should only use them in conformity to doctor’s instructions. Therefore, the most recommended step is to seek a doctor’s attention if you suspect your child has whooping cough.

Look out for the following early signs:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red and watery eyes

Whooping Cough Diagnosis

Diagnosing whooping cough early is challenging because its signs and symptoms resemble common respiratory illnesses such as cold, flu, and bronchitis. 

A doctor can use a physical exam and a history of typical signs and symptoms to determine whether your child has whooping cough. Some doctors can simply listen to the cough and diagnose whooping cough.

Alternatively, a doctor may order the following tests:

  • Blood Test: A blood antibody test may be required anytime between 2-12 weeks after developing whooping cough. The role of a blood test is to check the concentration of white blood cells, whose role is to fight diseases. A high concentration means your body has inflammation or an infection, such as whooping cough. 


  • Bacteria Culture Test: A culture test is highly accurate in the first two weeks after developing an infection. An urgent care center physician will take a swab or suction sample from the intersection of the nose and the throat(nasopharynx). The sample is sent to the lab, where the cells are grown until enough for a test. Finally, the sample is checked for evidence of whooping cough— test results may take up to one week.


  • PCR(Polymerase Chain Reaction) Test: It develops the most reliable results the first 3-4 weeks after whooping cough develops. The PCR test checks the fluid sample for the presence of genetic material from whooping cough bacteria.


  • Chest X-ray: The doctor may order an X-ray to check for lung inflammation, which may occur if a child has pneumonia, whooping cough, and other respiratory illnesses.

Whooping Cough Treatment For Kids

A doctor may recommend antibiotics to your kid. The antibiotic medication effectively shortens the infection length if taken early, before coughing intensifies. More importantly, a dose of antibiotics will stop the infection from spreading to other family members.

If one of your children has whooping cough, consult your doctor whether preventive medicine or vaccine boosters are necessary for other family members.

Here’s why some kids may need hospitalization:

  • Young children face a greater risk of developing pneumonia.
  • They also need monitoring because of complications such as troubled breathing, dehydration, low oxygen during dry cough, and period of apneas—temporary cessation of breathing.
  • Whooping cough is life-threatening for infants younger than 6 months, necessitating hospitalization— the child may need Intravenous(IV) fluids if they’re dehydrated or have trouble eating.

How  Parents Can Help Children Prepare For Appointments

If you think your child has whooping cough, book an appointment with a family doctor or pediatrician. Consider visiting an urgent care center if you have severe symptoms or can’t find your regular doctor.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Note down a record of recent immunizations.
  • Note down information about past medical records
  • List down descriptions of signs and symptoms.
  • Write down questions you’d like to ask the doctor.

Coping with Whooping Cough: Tips and Treatments for Soothing Symptoms in Babies and Children

The following tips will help calm whooping cough symptoms for babies and children.

  • Get Enough Rest: Secure a serene, quiet, and dark bedroom where the child can rest or relax without disruption.
  • Encourage the child to eat smaller and more frequent meals to avoid vomiting.
  • Provide Clean Air: Keep the home free of pollutant sources such as smoke or fumes which can trigger coughing spells.
  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water, soups, and juice. 
  • If any family member has whooping cough, encourage them to cover their cough, wash their hands, and mask up around others.
  • Remember to watch for signs of dehydration and report them immediately to a doctor. Look out for dry lips, decreased urination, sleepiness or fatigue, headaches, thirst, and muscle weakness.

When Your Child Has Whooping Cough: What to Expect and How to Care for Them at Home

What to Expect When Your Child Has Whooping Cough

The incubation period of whooping cough is 5-10 days; even so, symptoms might only appear after three weeks from the date of infection.

Early symptoms of whooping cough are similar to the common cold and include runny nose, fever, nasal congestion, red or watery eyes, and cough. Within two weeks of infection, a child may develop a dry and persistent cough that makes breathing difficult.

A child may also develop a ‘whoop’ sound after trying to breathe after coughing spells; however, this unique sound is less common in infants.

Whooping symptoms worsen after a week or two— thick mucus accumulates inside the airways triggering uncontrolled coughing. Unfortunately, prolonged and unchecked breathing may:

  • Trigger vomiting
  • Cause a blue or red face
  • Cause extreme fatigue
  • Culminate in a high-pitched ‘whoop’ in the next gasp of air
  • Cause breathing difficulties
  • Dehydration
  • Low-grade fever

How to Take Care Of Them at Home

  • Keep dust and smoke away from your home and your child.
  • Use whooping cough medication safely.  Assist your child in taking the medication as prescribed. It’s also a good idea to call your doctor or nurse if your child is having trouble with your medicine.
  • Avoid giving cough and cold medicines to children younger than 6 months— they do not work and are sometimes harmful. Follow instructions on any medication given to children older than 6 months. Consider using dosage equipment attached to the package to maximize the effect of the medicine.
  • Keep your home and the child’s room quiet and calm to give the child ample rest and reduce coughing spells.
  • If your child has been prescribed antibiotics, let them take the entire dose. Avoid instances where the child stops taking the dosage after recovery.
  • Keep your child away from other children while ill.
  • Give your child small doses of fluids and healthy foods.
  • Protect your child from sudden noises, light, or temperature changes.
  • Encourage your family members to wash their hands to prevent the spread of the infection.

Visit an urgent care center or call their helpline if:

  • If your child starts vomiting and cannot keep down fluids
  • The child is too tired to eat or drink
  • The child’s face, feet, and hands look slightly grayish or purple
  • The child has labored breathing or is breathing faster
  • Consider visiting a doctor if the child is not getting better despite the medication

Call 911 or the nearest emergency center if your child:

  • Stops breathing, becomes unconscious, or turns blue. 
  • Has severe breathing problems with signs such as chest sinking, breathing through the diaphragm, and nostrils flaring up during labored breathing.

A Parent’s Toolkit for Managing Whooping Cough: Strategies for Helping Your Child Recover Quickly and Safely

Here’s what a parent should do for a quick and safe recovery:


  • Take Your Child to the Doctor on Time: A child with whooping cough develops mild symptoms that can be concurred with early intervention. Therefore, take your child to the doctor as quickly as you suspect your child has whooping cough.


  • Provide a Conducive Environment: Create a conducive environment to facilitate quick and safe recovery. For instance, according to the child, ample rest because fatigue will delay healing. Provide enough drinks, juice, and soups to avoid dehydration.


  • Provide Nutritious Foods: As your child recovers from whooping cough, they’ll need nutritious meals to boost their immunity and calm their symptoms. Some foods that can help your child manage whooping cough symptoms include honey, turmeric, ginger, kiwi, almonds, garlic, and pumpkin seeds.

Visit Newport Urgent Care Center For Quality & Prompt Care

Although whooping cough starts with mild symptoms like a runny nose, it develops into a severe condition like brain damage, pneumonia, or death. Similarly, your child may require expensive hospitalization or emergency care due to breathing difficulties.

It’s, therefore, wise to seek timely medical attention from an urgent care center.

Newport Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine is well-equipped, staffed, and open 7 days a week, making it a convenient treatment option.

Contact us online or call us at 949.752.6300 to book an appointment.