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Are Your Kids Protected From Whooping Cough?


A patient asked, “My kids were immunized against Pertussis (or whooping cough) years ago, so are they protected from any future outbreaks?”

Pertussis is a serious bacterial disease in infants and children. We now know that immunity wears off in adolescents and young adults, which allows high school students to get pertussis, and spread it to parents, grandparents, and young susceptible children.

In infants and young children who have no immunity to pertussis, whooping cough can lead to airway obstruction, critical illness or death. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 50 million cases and 300,000 deaths a year from this illness. Adolescents and young adults do not get the “whoop” sound to their cough; instead they get fever and a dry cough, which may make them hack until they vomit or pass out.

The disease in infants and children may last several weeks to months. It is characterized by spasms of uncontrollable coughing ending in a “whoop”, and the face may turn red or purple. In adults, the disease is known as the “100 day cough.”

Pertussis is very contagious and is on the rise. It is recommended that young adults get a Tdap shot because the new pertussis vaccine in the Tdap shot increases the level of protection. It is very safe and should help reduce the number of infant deaths from whooping cough. Children who never received any doses of DTaP vaccine face odds of having whooping cough at least eight times higher than children who received all 5 doses of the vaccine.

I recommend everyone get a Tdap booster sometime between ages 11-18, after they have completed the primary series of DTaP. Adults over 19 years of age should get a boost of Td every 10 years.

Categories: Deaconess