How is pertussis treated?

Medications used to treat the infection include antibiotics, such as azithromycin, clarithromycin, and erythromycin. Antibiotics help to prevent infected people from spreading the disease and may also lessen the later symptoms of pertussis if given during the early stage of the illness.

Treatment should begin as soon as possible after the illness is diagnosed.

Babies and infants who develop pertussis may need to be hospitalized, because they can experience life-threatening complications, such pneumonia or breathing problems. Infants at least 1 month old can be treated with erythromycin, clarithromycin and azithromycin. Babies who are at least 2 months old may also be treated with Bactrim (trimethroprim-sulfamethoxaole). Azithromycin is preferred for prevention and treatment of pertussis in babies less than 1 month old.

People who have been in close contact with someone infected with pertussis also should be treated with antibiotics within 3 weeks of exposure.

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