Lessons learnt from the past

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

October 29th, 2012

Gary Finnegan

Baby-LoreDo you remember the story of baby Lore?

How did she catch whooping cough? Where? How can we, the parents, avoid history repeating itself in case of a new pregnancy?  How can you avoid having to live through the same thing?

It was more than just terribly bad luck. Whooping cough was and is still present in our area and cases of adults tested positive are regularly registered, as recently as last month.

In such circumstances, how is it possible to feel safe in the crowd and to remain confident in the places we visited with Lore when you know how infectious pertussis is and how  easily it  can be transmitted?

It is frightening when you know that the incubation period can last up to 21 days and that it takes that long for the first symptoms to appear.

The immune system of an adult will help them to beat the infection after a while, but for a vulnerable newborn, the damage caused in the meantime can be severe.

Fairs, markets, shops, public transport, waiting rooms, parties or wherever you find a high concentration of people, could represent a real danger. I feel that those places should be avoided during the first six months of life.

We would even avoid waiting in public health clinics, preferring instead to get a doctor’s appointment and wait outside in the car until the patient before us leaves.
I know, everything is done to promote a ‘mobile’ baby.  You’ll find all you need to take a baby everywhere with you – such as car seats and baby slings – making it so easy to show him all around.  It’s pleasant but what proud parents don’t realise at that moment is that they may be putting their baby at risk. 

Vaccinating the mother just after delivery is not enough in my opinion.  It takes too much time before the vaccine has its effect.  Imagine that your first visitor in the maternity hospital is someone contagious.  You’ll be infected and your baby too.

No, for me, the most effective means of protection is cocoon vaccination before or during the pregnancy so that the mother will already transmit antibodies to the baby. In this way, it will help to tide over the baby’s immune system until he gets his own first jabs and furthermore, he will be surrounded by immunized people forming a kind of shield.

We are aware that no vaccine is 100% effective, some people are vaccine-resistant and that a virus or a bacterium can mutate. But that’s the reason why we, the parents, have the duty to limit the risks of exposure and to be extra vigilant.

You don’t have to put your baby in a glass bubble and protect him or her but you can easily apply some very simple strategies that would help to keep the danger at a distance.

Based on our own experience, our tips for at least the first 6 months are:

– Make sure everyone who’ll have a regular contact  with your baby is up to date on their    vaccination   
– Be alert and stay away from anyone with symptoms; pertussis (like many respiratory tract infections) starts with a runny nose  
– Avoid indoor busy places such as markets, public fairs, trains, buses and so on
– When outdoors, cover the pram with something light like a muslin cloth
– Let your visitors clearly know that it is not ok to visit if they are sick
– Teach everyone in the house to cover their cough or sneeze
– Wash your hands before touching the baby

A lot of people think we have become rude and paranoid. But you know, when you have witnessed the long agony of your own baby gasping for air, turning blue, losing the use of her vital organs, until the moment that the heart decides to beat for the last time ….. I can assure you that you won’t speak of paranoia anymore.

As I already said at a conference: “Every night we go to sleep with the feeling that we contributed ourselves to the death of our own baby, I don’t wish this to my worst enemy…”
So, my advice is:
Prevent, Protect and Immunize !

Read more
Lore’s website
Whooping cough: a parent’s story

Update: Thanks to Danny’s campaign, the health authorities in his region updated their guidance on pertussis vaccine

Read: Parents dedicate pertussis vaccine victory to their daughter