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Pregnant woman being vaccinated - text reads: If you're pregnant, getting vaccinated gives your child the best protection against whooping cough

Protect against whooping cough

Following a rise in whooping cough cases, health officials are encouraging pregnant women and young children to be vaccinated.

Whooping cough is an infection of the lungs and airways, and for very young babies it can be a serious infection, and sometimes fatal.

But mothers can protect themselves and their babies in the early weeks of their lives by having a safe vaccination while pregnant.

The vaccine is offered to pregnant women after their 20-week scan. It means the mother’s body can produce antibodies which are passed through the placenta to the baby, giving them high levels of protection until they are old enough to have their own vaccination at 8 weeks old. It is important for all children to follow the childhood vaccination schedule to protect them from serious illnesses such as whooping cough and measles.

Highly contagious infection

Whooping cough is a highly contagious infection. For very young babies who become unwell with it, most are admitted to hospital and if particularly severe, they can tragically die.

Having a very simple vaccination while pregnant really does protect mum and baby and is hugely effective at preventing serious illness.


The first symptoms of whooping cough are similar to a common cold, with a runny nose and mild fever.

After about a week or so, a characteristic cough develops with uncontrollable bouts of intense coughing that can last several minutes, sometimes causing vomiting.

The coughing is worse overnight and a distinctive ‘whooping’ sound can be heard as those infected gasp for breath between coughs.

Babies under 3 months old who are not fully protected through immunisation are at the highest risk of developing severe complications.

Signs, symptoms and what to do if you suspect your child, you or someone you know may have whooping cough are on the NHS website.

If you are worried your baby may have whooping cough, contact your doctor immediately.

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