Whooping Cough is characterised by a hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a ‘whoop’ A bacteria called Bordetella pertussis is the cause of Whooping cough. It is contagious. It spreads through air when an infected person coughs or sneezes by means of germ laden droplets.
The vaccine given to prevent whooping cough wears off eventually leaving many teenagers and adults susceptible to an infection during an outbreak.
Infants who are younger than age 12 months who are unvaccinated or haven’t received the full set of recommended vaccines have the highest risk for severe complications and death.
For teens and adults, while there may not be complications, they tend to be side effects of the strenuous coughing, such as:
- Bruised or cracked ribs
- Abdominal hernias
- Broken blood vessels in the skin or the whites of your eyes
For infants the complications are more severe and may be life-threatening which is why they may need to be hospitalized early. They include:
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Dehydration or weight loss due to feeding difficulties
- Brain damage
Vaccination is the best way to prevent the whooping cough. It is usually recommended to begin during infancy and are given in a series of 5 injections at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and 4-6 years. They may result in mild side effects including fever, headache and fatigue.
Because immunity from the pertussis vaccine tends to wane by age 11, doctors recommend a booster shot during adolescence to protect against whooping cough.
For pregnant women, the pertussis vaccine is given between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation. This may also give some protection to the infant during the first few months of life.