What is whooping cough? 

Whooping cough can be very serious for babies and children – especially those under 1 year old. If babies catch whooping cough, they:

  • may not be able to feed or breathe properly
  • may become so ill they need to go to hospital
  • could end up with serious complications such as pneumonia and brain damage.
  • a runny nose
  • sneezing
  • slight fever
  • a mild irritating cough
  • feeling generally unwell.
  • intense bouts of coughing, which bring up thick phlegm
  • a ‘whoop’ sound with each sharp intake of breath after coughing
  • vomiting after coughing, especially in infants and young children
  • tiredness and redness in the face from the effort of coughing.
  • have prolonged coughing spasms
  • turn blue while coughing
  • cough with a whooping sound
  • are un-vaccinated.
  • you have a baby of 6 months or younger who appears to be very ill
  • you (or your child) appear to be experiencing significant breathing difficulties such as extended periods of breathlessness
  • you (or your child) develop serious complications, such as seizures (fits) or pneumonia, an infection that causes inflammation of the tissues in your lungs.

In babies whooping cough is very serious and may require hospitalisation.

What is the treatment? 
Whooping cough is normally treated with antibiotics at home. The antibiotics will stop you being infectious after 5 days of taking them. Try to keep away from other people during this time – keep your child home from school or preschool. However, without antibiotics, you may still be infectious until 3 weeks after your intense bouts of coughing start. Young babies (less than 1 year old) with whooping cough may need hospital treatment to avoid developing complications.

Immunisation is your choice. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or practice nurse or call the Immunisation Advisory Centre free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).

Source: Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora

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