What Is Whooping Cough And Who Is Most At Risk?

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly infectious bacterial infection that affects a person’s breathing.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly infectious bacterial infection that affects a person’s breathing. It is caused directly by a bacteria that is found in the nose, throat and mouth of those infected.

Pertussis can occur at any age but it is most common in children that are less than five.
Unfortunately, the infection claims the lives of many infants worldwide, even in areas where vaccination coverage is strong.
In recent years, Ireland has seen an increase in the number of pertussis cases among infants who have not yet received the vaccine that provides immunity and protection due to their age.
Once infected a person can be infectious for 5-6 weeks from the onset of the condition with the early stages being the most infectious. This can occur even before the cough has developed.
This means that pertussis can spread before a person was ever aware that they or their child were even infected and contagious. The best way of preventing the spread of pertussis is to have the vaccination administered.

While antibiotics can help shorten the contagious period and decrease the chances of it spreading, it does very little in terms of shortening the length of this illness for the patient. A person who has pertussis should stay away from young children until they have been properly treated or have received confirmation that the infection has completely passed.

Symptoms tend to resemble those of a basic cold initially. The person may have a low-grade fever as well as a runny nose. Within two weeks the cough usually becomes severe and rapid coughing fits (followed by a high pitched whooping sound) are regular.
The coughing fits can involve the expulsion of mucus as well as vomiting. In young infants, the coughing fits may be followed by periods of them not being able to breathe. This is traumatising and scary for parents and children alike.
These coughing fits can go on for several months. Pertussis can lead to other conditions such as pneumonia and in 0.2% of cases the illness is fatal.

In Ireland immunisation is offered as part of the vaccination schedule. Protection against pertussis is given as part of the “6-in-1” vaccine in three stages before your baby is six months old. A booster (Tdap) can be obtained by adults if they have not had the vaccine within 10 years. It contains a low dose.
Pregnant women should be offered this booster between sixteen and thirty-six weeks of pregnancy to protect themselves and their unborn infant. It is also possible to have the vaccine after delivery if it was not given during the pregnancy.
There are very few expected reactions to this vaccine other than possible local redness and swelling. Adverse reactions are very rare and the vaccine is considered to be very reliable and safe.

Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.



Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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