Watch for signs of whooping cough


Dear parent,

A pupil at Tuakau College has been notified with whooping cough (pertussis).  You have been sent this letter because your child was a potential contact and may develop the illness. The last day of potential contact was 21/06/17.

Watch for signs of whooping cough

  • The early signs of whooping cough include a runny nose, fever, or cough (often worse at night) which gets worse over time turning into long coughing bouts that may end in gagging or vomiting
  • If your child develops any of the early signs of whooping cough in the three weeks following their exposure or if they have a cough that has lasted for more than two weeks
    • See your GP – call ahead and let the practice know you think you may have whooping cough so they can be prepared
    • Stay away from babies, children under 12 months, and pregnant women until you have seen your GP
  • If three weeks have passed since your child was last exposed and has not become unwell, then it is unlikely they will get whooping cough from this exposure. Most people begin to feel unwell 7-10 days after exposure

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a bacterial infection that usually starts with a runny nose, fever, and dry cough. The cough gradually gets worse and last for 8-12 weeks, often developing into long coughing attacks. In babies and young children, coughing attacks often end with a ‘whoop’ sound at the intake of breath, or with vomiting or gagging.   

Who can get whooping cough?

Anyone who is exposed can get whooping cough because immunity (protection) to whooping cough decreases over time even if you have been immunised or have had the infection before. Generally a person needs to have face to face contact with someone with whooping cough to get infected.

Immunisation is the best way to protect against whooping cough

Whooping cough immunisation is offered at 6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months, 4 years and 11 years. If you are not sure if your child is up to date with their immunisations, check with your GP or practice nurse. Immunisation is also recommended for each pregnancy and helps protect both mother and the baby. Immunisation during childhood and pregnancy is free.


Antibiotics from your GP

A course of antibiotics after exposure reduces the risk of a person catching whooping cough.  Antibiotics are not 100% effective for preventing whooping cough but are recommended for close contacts who live with infants under 12 months old, pregnant women, or those with a weak immune system. If this applies to your child, take them to the GP for a course of antibiotics.

Talk to your children about covering coughs and sneezes

Children should be taught to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze, to throw away any tissues they have used, and to wash and dry their hands well afterwards. This helps prevent illnesses with coughs and sneezes, like whooping cough, from spreading.



More information on whooping cough is available from the Auckland Regional Public Health website ( or phone Healthline on 0800 611 116 or visit your family doctor.


For information on immunisation, please call the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or visit their website


Yours sincerely,


Juanita Wiggill


Medical Officer

Auckland Regional Public Health Service

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