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Whooping cough prevention

Whooping cough (also known as ‘pertussis’) is a vaccine preventable disease and vaccination is recommended as part of routine childhood immunisation.

Immunisation against whooping cough is normally effective in preventing the disease, and can also reduce the severity of the cough if it does occur despite vaccination. Immunity can wear off several years after vaccination. Routine immunisation against whooping cough is given to children at 6 weeks, 4 and 6 months, with booster doses at 18 months, 4 years and 10-15 years. While whooping cough can occur in immunised children, the disease is then generally less severe.

To have your child immunised against pertussis you can visit your local doctor or child health nurse.

Added protection for infants

It is now recommended that all pregnant women receive a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination during their third trimester (ideally at 28 weeks). A combination of antibodies being passed through the mother’s bloodstream and the reduced risk of the mother contracting the disease makes this an ideal time to administer the vaccine. Most states now offer the pertussis vaccination for free to expectant mothers. Speak to your doctor or antenatal care provider to schedule an appointment.

Fathers, grandparents and anyone else who is likely to come into contact with newborns should see their doctor to get a pertussis booster at least two weeks before the baby is born.

Last reviewed: May 2017

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Following a new recommendation that third trimester vaccination for whooping cough is the most effective way to prevent the disease in newborns, Queensland, NSW, SA, WA and Victoria now offer free vaccinations to all pregnant women.

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The major symptom of whooping cough is a severe cough, which is often followed by a 'whooping' sound.

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