Whooping cough can be very serious for babies and children – especially those under one year old. If babies catch whooping cough, they:
The best way to protect your baby from whooping cough is to take them for their free immunisations when they’re six weeks, three months and five months old.
The disease is most infectious in the first couple of weeks, when symptoms are like a normal cold. Whooping cough continues to be infectious three to four weeks after the cough starts.
Many babies catch whooping cough from their older siblings or parents – often before they’re old enough to be vaccinated.
Whooping cough is common in New Zealand. We have an outbreak of the disease every three to five years. The most recent outbreak began in August 2011 and is still ongoing.
Whooping cough begins with cold-like symptoms such as:
The cough becomes worse and can make you or your child vomit.
Babies and children often gasp for air and some make a ‘whooping’ sound during coughing attacks. Most children can seem well between the coughing spells.
Adults and older children don’t normally make the ‘whoop’ sound, but can still get very sick.
The cough may last up to three months.
If you think you or a family member may have whooping cough, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Your doctor can test to see whether it is whooping cough.
Antibiotics can reduce how long you’re infectious for, but unless they’re given early, they may not reduce your symptoms.
All babies in New Zealand can be immunised against whooping cough as part of their free childhood immunisations.
It’s important to protect babies from whooping cough by getting them immunised on time. They’re not protected until they’ve had all three doses – at six weeks, three months and five months old.
Booster doses are given to children when they’re four and 11 years old.
If your baby or child hasn’t been immunised, talk to your GP or practice nurse. They can arrange a time for your child to be immunised. It’s never too late to catch up. Whooping cough vaccine is free for all children under 16.
From 1 January 2013, pregnant women are able to receive a whooping cough booster vaccination for free.
Other adults can receive booster vaccinations for a cost. Immunisation is recommended if:
Boosters should also be considered for other people who are vulnerable to whooping cough and at high risk of severe illness or complications (eg, those with chronic respiratory conditions, congenital heart disease or immunodeficiency).
This disease is covered on the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule. The vaccines used are INFANRIX®- hexa, INFANRIX-IPV™ and Boostrix™.
Around 84 percent of babies are protected once they’ve completed three doses of vaccine (at six weeks, and three and five months of age).
Protection wanes over time. People can get whooping cough some years later, even if they’ve been immunised or have had it before. That’s why it’s important for four and 11-year-olds to have booster immunisations.
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).