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Q I AM five months [...].

Byline: HEALTH OUR expert Dr JOANNA LONGSTAFFE Clinical director of the Independent General Practice answers your

Q I AM five months pregnant and on a recent visit to the midwife was told I will need to have the whooping cough vaccination at 28 weeks. I am a little concerned about the safety of the vaccine, is it essential for me have the immunisation? A Whooping cough has been in the news a lot recently, and during the past year there have been close to 5,000 reported cases in the UK. The infection can affect anyone at any age but can be more harmful to babies and young infants.

As a result of the increased risks, pregnant women across the UK are being offered the whooping cough vaccine as a precaution.

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis; the infection spreads from through contaminated droplets of air.

Symptoms include, in the early stages, sneezing, a dry irritating cough, runny nose, a raised temperature and generally feeling unwell. The second stage symptoms are more serious and can include intense bouts of coughing, difficulty breathing and sometimes vomiting after coughing.

These symptoms can last as long as three months and sometimes longer. Most symptoms will ease during this period, however, some people may still experience bouts of severe coughing.

Most people fully recover from whooping cough but there is a risk of developing complications, most commonly in babies. Complications could include pneumonia, dehydration, weight loss, seizures, kidney failure and in very severe cases, brain damage. Such complications are however rare. Anyone who suspects they or their children might be suffering from whooping cough should see a GP as soon as possible. A diagnosis can be made from blood tests or a sample of mucus.

A GP may prescribe antibiotics that will kill the bacterium and also prevent the infection from spreading any further. As whooping cough is much less serious in older children and adults, self-help measures such as drinking warm soothing drinks - plenty of fluids are vital to prevent dehydration - will be recommended. It is also important to get as much rest as possible to give your body a chance to recover.

For babies under 12 months, hospital treatment may be required if it's a nasty case.

Current advice encourages pregnant women to have the whooping cough vaccination to help protect the baby in the first few vulnerable weeks of their life. The little one will then be vaccinated against the disease again at two months old.

The vaccine has been clinically tested and there is no evidence to suggest it is unsafe for pregnant women.

The immunity you receive from the vaccination is passed to the baby through the placenta.

Speak to your midwife or GP for reassurance over this but taking preventative measures will help protect both your baby and yourself at this important time.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 21, 2012
Words:478
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