How Proactive Parents Prevent Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Whooping cough is highly contagious –- and dangerous for newborns.
Antibiotic Treatment to Slow the Spread of Whooping Cough
Whooping cough is treatable with antibiotics such as erythromycin, clarithromycin, doxycycline, azithromycin, and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. Anyone who is diagnosed during the first few weeks of cough should take antibiotics to reduce spread of the disease to others. Antibiotics, however, may not reduce the symptoms very much.
Because pertussis is so contagious, other household members should also take antibiotics to prevent whooping cough from developing and spreading. “Depending on the situation, close contacts at school or daycare may also need to take antibiotics,” says Keyserling.
If your child has been exposed to someone with known pertussis at school or daycare, close observation and a discussion with your doctor may be in order to see if she should take antibiotics.
Other Tips to Prevent Pertussis
Other than vaccination and booster immunization with Tdap, there’s no effective way to prevent pertussis. The bacteria is simply too contagious, and the symptoms too similar to those of the common cold, to realistically stop its spread.
Still, there are two things you can do to reduce the symptoms and spread of whooping cough, should this bacteria sneak into your family circle:
- Wash your hands. Hand hygiene is a universal recommendation. When possible, wash hands or use alcohol-based rubs after touching nasal secretions.
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Encourage children to do the same.
As Keyserling points out, however, trying to prevent the spread of whooping cough without adequate vaccination is most likely a losing battle. “People are social beings, and intimacy at home is natural,” he says. “No one washes their hands before hugging their child.”