Whooping cough, or pertussis, is an airborne respiratory infection that can bring with it symptoms similar to the common cold. It can affect people of all ages, although it is particularly serious in young children and babies, often life-threatening in babies less than 6 months of age. It is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing. The disease is named ‘Whooping Cough’ because the cold-like symptoms are followed by a long period of coughing fits, usually several weeks, in which a person may make a high-pitched ‘whoop’ when inhaling after coughing.
How the symptoms can affect us
Whooping Cough initially presents similarly to the common cold, with a runny nose, watery eyes and a low-grade fever, however over the next three to seven days sufferers develop a dry cough which is typically accompanied by a sharp inhalation, from where the name ‘Whooping Cough’ is derived.
The violent coughing has also been known to cause vomiting, general tiredness and can even break ribs from the effort.
The cough usually passes after a few weeks but may linger as long as three months. For this reason, Whooping Cough is also known in some places as having a hundred-day cough.
For those under 18
Babies are among the most at-risk demographic of both being infected and experiencing adverse effects related to the disease. The best way to reduce the risk of developing whooping cough is through immunisation, however babies cannot be vaccinated until they are six weeks of age and are not fully protected until they are six months old.
The Whooping Cough vaccine is a part of the National Immunisation Program Schedule. It is funded for:
- Infants aged 2 months (vaccines due at 2 months can be given from 6 weeks), 4 months and 6 months)
- Children at 18 months of age
- Children aged 4 years (vaccines due at 4 years can be given from 3 years 6 months)
- Year 7 student booster dose, usually given in the school immunisation program.
For advice or further details on vaccinating children, consult your pharmacist or general practitioner.
Your TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist can help
TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacists are able to offer and perform whooping cough vaccinations with customers aged 18 and above in ACT, QLD and VIC and customers aged 16 and above in SA. No prior prescription is required, though customers are asked to complete a consent form and answer some questions about existing health conditions and any previous reactions. They also need to remain in-store for a further 15-minute observation period following their vaccination.
If you DO contract Whooping Cough, treatment is a course of antibiotics which reduces the time a person is infectious to others and may reduce symptoms if given early in the disease. Your pharmacists will advise you to see your doctor if you are suspected to have contracted whooping cough.
Who else should get vaccinated?
Vaccination against Whooping Cough is also recommended for women early in the third trimester of each pregnancy, ideally between 28 and 32 weeks (although it can be administered at any time in the third trimester). Boosting an expectant mother’s immunity also protects the newborn until vaccination at six weeks is possible. This is also covered under the National Immunisation Program from 1st July 2018.
A booster dose is also recommended for adults wanting to reduce the risk of infection who haven’t had a booster in the last decade. It is especially important that people who will be in contact with or caring for babies under six months of age be vaccinated.
General advice only – this information should not replace the information provided to you by your health care professional. If symptoms are severe or persist, please speak to your health care professional. Information current as of date of publishing.
Always check with your pharmacist or medical professional before starting any new medications or supplements, particularly if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, are taking any medications currently, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or researching therapies suitable for infants or children.