Preventing whooping cough 

In the UK, whooping cough is now rare due to children and pregnant women being vaccinated against it.

Pregnant women are offered a vaccination to protect against whooping cough after they've had their foetal anomaly scan, which is usually between 18 and 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The best time to have the vaccine is from around 20 weeks, after you’ve had your scan, but you can still have it up until you go into labour. However, protection for the baby is best when the vaccine is given before 32 weeks.

The 5-in-1 vaccine

The whooping cough vaccine is given as part of the 5-in-1 vaccine (DTaP/IPV/Hib), which also protects against diphtheria, tetanus, polio and Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b).

In the UK, babies are given the 5-in-1 vaccine when they are eight (first dose), 12 (second dose) and 16 weeks (third dose) old.

The pre-school booster

The 4-in-1 pre-school booster (DTap/IPV) is given as a single jab before children start school (when they are three years and four months old) to boost their protection against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.

The whooping cough vaccine is given in three separate jabs plus a booster, so that your child's body has time to build up an effective level of protection.

Side effects of the whooping cough vaccine

The whooping cough vaccine is very safe. The most common side effects that babies experience are:

  • pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
  • irritability and increased crying
  • being off colour or having a fever

Read more about side effects of the 5-in-1 vaccine.

If your child has a problem with their immune system, speak to your GP for advice about vaccination. Babies with mild coughs or colds can still have the vaccine.

Pregnant women

All pregnant women are offered vaccination against whooping cough to help protect their baby from developing whooping cough in its first few weeks of life.

The best time to have this vaccine is around 20 weeks, after your foetal scan, up to 32 weeks. But if for any reason you miss the vaccine, you can still have it up until you go into labour.

Find out more about vaccination for pregnant women.

Page last reviewed: 01/07/2014

Next review due: 01/07/2016