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What is Whooping Cough?

Whooping Cough is a highly infectious disease caused by bacteria, which is spread through the community by coughing and sneezing, in the same way as colds and influenza.

Young children, especially babies under six months, can become extremely ill and occasionally die from whooping cough. Older children and adults get Whooping cough too, which if not diagnosed and treated, may spread to young children.

What are the symptoms?

Whooping Cough starts with a runny nose and dry cough. The cough gets worse over the next few weeks, often developing into very long coughing attacks. In babies and children these coughing attacks often end with a ‘whoop’ sound when breathing in, or end with vomiting. Babies with Whooping cough can turn blue or stop breathing. If you think you or your child might have Whooping Cough, see your family doctor without delay.

Immunity (protection) to Whooping Cough decreases over time, so older children and adults can catch whopping cough and pass it on to babies and young children even if they have been immunised or had the infection before. It is important for children to get their booster immunisations at 4 and 11 years to keep their protection up during their school years.

What can be done to prevent Whooping Cough?

Getting immunisations on time offers the best protection against Whooping Cough .

Newborn babies do not get very good immunity/protection from their mother, even if she has had

Whooping Cough before. In babies, delays in being immunised increase the risk of being admitted to hospital with pertussis during their first year by four times, so it is very important that immunisations are given on time.

To give your baby the best protection, Whooping Cough immunisations should be given at the recommended times, that is:

  • Six weeks
  • Three months
  • Five months

Boosters are then given at:

  • 4 years
  • 11 years

If for some reason your child has not completed the full course of immunisations, or you are not sure, see your doctor or practice nurse to discuss catch-up immunisations.

For more information visit Auckland Regional Public Health Service