Complications in Children

Many infants who get pertussis must be hospitalized. In rare cases it can be life threatening. Some of the complications for young infants and children can include:

  • vomiting after a coughing spell
  • weight loss
  • breathing problems
  • choking spells
  • pneumonia
  • convulsions
  • brain damage  

When to call your doctor?

Your child should be seen by a doctor immediately if you think your child has pertussis or has been exposed to someone with pertussis or if he or she experiences any of the following warning signs:

  • long-lasting coughing spells that make your child's skin or lips turn red, purple, or blue
  • coughing followed by vomiting
  • whooping sound when your child breathes in after coughing
  • difficulty breathing or brief periods of not breathing (apnea)
  • lethargy (no energy)
  • not drinking enough fluids, hasn’t passed urine) in many hours, or has no tears when he/she cries

In older children and adults, the disease is usually less serious, and complications are rare. The only sign of infection may be a bad cough that lasts longer than a week. Older members of a household may have pertussis without knowing it. This can be a serious risk to younger children and infants in the home who are unvaccinated, or who haven’t yet completed their full schedule of vaccinations.

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Page Last Updated: 20/08/2014