6 Treatments of Pertussis

Contrary to popular belief, pertussis or whooping cough is not a disease of the past. In fact, even though giving the vaccination to young children is common practice, there are still between 10,000 and 40,000 cases reported each year. Most outbreaks of the whooping cough occur in isolated settings, such as daycare centers and schools.

Although the condition is mostly treatable, it can cause a serious threat to babies, children, teens, and adults, particularly because the initial symptoms of the disease mimic those of the common cold. Symptoms typically develop within 5 to 10 days of exposure; however, it may take as long as 3 weeks for them to surface.

Early onset of pertussis usually presents as cold-like symptoms accompanied by a mild cough and/or fever. The cough is typically absent in babies, but they may develop a symptom known as “apnea.” This symptom is most notable for a brief pause in the child’s breathing. For this and several other reasons, pertussis is most dangerous for babies. Roughly half of babies younger than a year old require hospital care if diagnosed with the disease.

Most cases of the disease progress over the course of a week or two. Later stage symptoms often include fits of rapid coughing followed by a high-pitched or characteristic “whooping” sound, vomiting, and extreme exhaustion. The intensity of the condition is generally what causes fatigue as the coughing associated with condition is violent and rapid.

Although individuals who have gotten the vaccination can still present with the disease, its effects are generally more mild. In most cases coughing will not last as long and fits of coughing, whooping, and vomiting will occur less frequently. Likewise, the rate of children with apnea is less. Nevertheless, seeking treatment, understanding the most effective treatment options, and knowing what steps to take to support treatment is essential for the best prognosis.

1. Medications

Pertussis is most commonly treated with antibiotics and prescription medication. Early treatment typically makes the infection less serious and is most effective if started before coughing fits begin. Your healthcare provided will explain the steps needed to treat the infection, which should follow the recommendations outlined by the CDC. The Center for Disease Control has specific recommendations regarding timing, treatment choice, and infant guidelines.

No matter the age of the affected individual, early intervention is vital for minimizing the effect of the disease. Ideally treatment will begin within the first week or two weeks of the onset of the condition. It is important to note that individuals with whom the affected individual has close contact should also be treated for the condition.

The antibiotics of choice for pertussis include azithromycin, clarithromycin, and erythromycin. Some clinicians also choose to administer trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. When choosing which antimicrobial agent is right for you or your child, your doctor will consider:

• Potential allergies or interactions

• Tolerability

• Adherence to the prescribed regimen

• Cost

Special considerations are also made for infants under the age of 1 year. Erythromycin and clarithromycin are preferred for individuals 1 month and older while azithromycin is generally used for babies less than 1 month old.