Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Mother Kissing Young Son On Cheek

Contact(s)

Frequently Asked Questions About Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Pour la version française, cliquez ici

What is whooping cough (pertussis)?

Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) is a disease that is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. It causes a very serious infection of the lungs and breathing airways. Whooping cough is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing fits that often makes it hard for people to breathe.  After coughing over and over, someone with whooping cough often needs to take a deep breath, which causes a "whooping" sound.

Whooping cough can affect people of all ages.  It can be very serious and even deadly in babies who are less than one year old, especially if they have not been vaccinated or if they are under-vaccinated. The best way to protect yourself and others from whooping cough is vaccination.

Who can be most seriously affected by whooping cough?

It is most serious for infants, children under one year of age, and women in their 3rdtrimester of pregnancy, especially if they have not been vaccinated.

How do I protect my children and myself from whooping cough?

The best way to protect you and your children is to get a whooping cough vaccine. Family members and caregivers of infants and young children should get vaccinated if they are not up-to-date with their whooping cough vaccine. Everyone should receive five needles in childhood, one needle in their teens and one needle in adulthood. The whooping cough vaccine is given at:

  • 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 18 months of age.
  • 4 to 6 years of age.
  • 14-16 years of age.
  • 1 dose in adulthood.

What is the whooping cough vaccine?

The whooping cough vaccine is only available as part of a vaccine that also has tetanus and diphtheria vaccine in it.  It may also contain polio vaccine depending on the vaccine required.

How do I check my whooping cough vaccine status?

Here is how:

  • Check your vaccination record;
  • Contact your health care provider; or
  • Contact the Health Unit at 705-474-1400 /1-800-563-2808 ext 2252.

I am pregnant, can I get the whooping cough vaccine?

Yes, but only if you are 26 weeks pregnant or later (third trimester). Talk to your health care provider or call the Health Unit at 1-800-563-2808 for more information.

Can I get the whooping cough vaccine if I am sick?

If you are not very sick and your fever is low (under 100F or 38C) you can get the whooping cough vaccine.

Is this vaccine free?

Under the publicly funded schedule for Ontario, one whooping cough vaccine is free at each of the following ages:

  • 2, 4, 6 months;
  • 18 months;
  • 4-6 years; 
  • 14-16 years and
  • one dose as an adult

Who do I contact for additional information?

For questions about your vaccination record or vaccines, please contact the Health Unit at 705-474-1400/1-800-563-2808 ext 2252.

For general questions about the bacteria that causes whooping cough (pertussis), please contact the Health Unit 705-474-1400/1-800-563-2808 ext 2229.

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

EARLY STAGE. Symptoms are usually mild at first and are like the symptoms of a common cold, including a runny nose, a minor fever and mild coughing. Sometimes, very young infants do not cough at all. Instead, they may have pauses in their breathing (this is called "apnea"). Because whooping cough in its early stages appears to be nothing more than a cold, it is often diagnosed only after the symptoms get worse.

LATER STAGE. After one to two weeks, thick mucus begins to collect inside the airways, which causes severe coughing fits. Coughing over and over can cause babies and children to:

  • Gasp for breath (with a "whooping" sound) or gag.
  • Have trouble breathing, eating or sleeping.
  • Turn blue from lack of oxygen.
  • Vomit.

Listen to the sound of whooping cough (pertussis) in a baby

Teens and adults may cough so hard that they pass out or break a rib. Because whooping cough can last for 10 weeks or even longer, it is often called the "100-day cough".

I think I have whooping cough, what should I do?

Contact your health care provider or call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000. Call ahead before going to a health care provider's office or the hospital, so that they can prepare and protect their other patients.

When is whooping cough most contagious?

It is most contagious during the first 2 weeks. A person is no longer contagious after 5 days of antibiotic treatment. If antibiotics are not prescribed or taken, a person is usually contagious for up to 3 weeks (21 days).

I have been told that my child has whooping cough, what do I do now?

Your child should stay home until they are no longer contagious. They should not attend school, childcare, or recreational/summer camps. They should stay away from public places and other social settings, and avoid contact with infants, young children, and women in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy. The vaccination status of other family members should be checked and the whooping cough vaccine received if needed.

I have been told that I have whooping cough, what do I do now?

You should stay home until you are no longer contagious. Do not go to work. Stay away from public places and other social settings. Avoid contact with infants, young children, and women in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy. The vaccination status of your other family members should be checked and the vaccine received if needed.

I was told to isolate myself, what does that mean?

You need to stay away from others so that you do not spread the bacteria that causes whooping cough (pertussis). Do not attend school, childcare or work; and do not take public transit, attend group activities/social gatherings until you are told you are not contagious.

How is whooping cough treated?

Whooping cough is treated by antibiotics. If you take antibiotics, you can reduce the amount of time that you are contagious but the symptoms may still be noticed. Antibiotics work better when they are given during the first 2 weeks of the illness. It is important that you take all the antibiotics that are given. The whooping cough vaccine is the best way to stop you from getting the bacteria that causes whooping cough (pertussis).  

Can I spread whooping cough even if I do not have a bad cough?

Yes. You can have whooping cough without realizing it and infect others. It is especially important for people who are going to be around babies or pregnant women to know as they could infect others. They should make sure they get the whooping cough vaccine and stay away from high-risk people when they have a runny nose or cough.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Health Unit at 1-800-563-2808.

 

 

 

North Bay
Parry Sound
Burk's Falls

681 Commercial Street 705.474.1400
8:30 - 4:30 Monday to Friday

70 Joseph Street Unit #302 705.746.5801
8:30 - 4:30 Monday to Friday

17 Copeland Street 1.800.563.2808
By Appointment Only