What does a baby with whooping cough sound like? Sometimes like this

Infant suffers frightening whooping cough attack

A distressed mother has shared a video of her five-week-old baby struggling to breath in an attempt to "educate more people on the importance of vaccinations".

It's a heartbreaking video that is difficult to watch, but that's just what Sydney mum of two Sandra wants people to do.

Sandra posted the video of her very sick five-week-old daughter Heidi on Facebook to show the terrible truth about whooping cough, and to warn parents about one of the little known, but potentially deadly, symptoms of the disease.

"This video may distress some people but I'm sharing to show just how scary and dangerous whooping cough is to babies who are too young to be vaccinated," Sandra wrote when posting the video on Facebook

Heidi struggles to breathe in the video.
Heidi struggles to breathe in the video.  Photo: Facebook/Sandra Tee

"This is my 5 week old baby during an episode where she chokes and stops breathing. Babies rely on herd immunity to keep them safe and unfortunately we cannot achieve that without high vaccination rates.

"Whooping cough is not always a loud obvious cough. The scary symptom for babies is when they don't cough but silently choke and turn blue/purple from lack of oxygen. If we weren't in hospital and sitting watching our baby 24/7 the outcome would be fatal." 

The minute long video of the tiny baby has been viewed more than 237,000 times since it was posted on Monday.

Sandra, from Macarthur in Sydney's southwest, told Essential Baby that Heidi contracted whooping cough after her big brother caught it at his childcare where there had been an outbreak.

While the little boy only suffered mild symptoms, his little sister, who is too young to be vaccinated, fell very ill.

This was despite the entire family, including then 10-day-old Heidi, being put on antibiotics as a precaution after the little boy's initial diagnosis.

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The baby was so unwell that Sandra's husband, who is a firefighter, had to perform CPR on their tiny daughter last Friday after she stopped breathing and turned blue following a coughing fit.

The family, who had visited a "very, very unhelpful" doctor the previous day, rushed straight to hospital. Heidi has been monitored there ever since. 

"She got worse the next few days and started having apnoeas where she would not even cough - just made a very tiny noise and when I looked at her she'd stopped breathing, turned red then deep purple," Sandra said.

"This is the scary part because the first time it happened nurses and doctors rushed in and at first oxygen couldn't get her going so they all got a bit panicky and got a crash cart ready to start working on her.

Baby Heidi was born just weeks ago.
Baby Heidi was born just weeks ago.  Photo: Writing with Light Photography

"As a result we couldn't sleep as we spent every minute watching her to make sure we didn't miss a 'silent episode'. We have been taking turns sleeping and watching her."

Sandra says Heidi is now doing a lot better, but the exhausted parents are continuing to watch their daughter 24 hours a day.

"She's still having these episodes but they are less frequent. It seems worse at night when she is in a deeper sleep as she relaxes and I think forgets to consciously cough or breathe.

"We are very tired but we are taking turns to watch her at night."

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an extremely contagious respiratory infection which causes uncontrolled coughing and vomiting. It can last for several months and can be particularly dangerous for babies under the age of 12 months.

Babies are at greatest risk of contracting whooping cough until they have had at least two doses of the vaccine, which is at four months of age. 

Sandra is hopeful her family's experience will serve as a warning to other parents about the importance of vaccination and herd immunity to protect very young babies from the potentially deadly disease. 

She also wants other new parents to be alert to the sometimes "silent" symptoms of whooping cough.

"Please don't ignore the warning signs - our baby girl only had a slight cough to start," she said. "Please share this to educate more people on the importance of vaccinations."