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Testing, Treatment, and Care

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Published on January 04, 2017. Last modified on April 12, 2017

Testing

Your medical provider may diagnosis pertussis based on symptoms alone (presence of characteristic “whooping” sound when coughing or coughing so hard that vomiting occurs).  A laboratory test called “PCR” (polymerase chain reaction) is very accurate at detecting pertussis.  Your medical provider will swab your nose or throat area.  The swab will be sent to a laboratory, where a test is run to look for pertussis DNA.

Treatment

Antibiotics, if taken within the first 21 days of coughing, are very effective at reducing the spread of illness.  If taken right away, antibiotics sometimes reduce the length of time a person coughs as well.  Pertussis bacteria make certain toxins in your body.  Antibiotics are effective against the bacteria but not the toxins, so sometimes people continue to cough for a while even after taking antibiotics.

Individuals diagnosed with pertussis should stay home from work or school until they have been on antibiotics for 5 days.  It is especially important to avoid being around babies and pregnant women until your antibiotic treatment is finished to keep from spreading the disease to them.