Pertussis Basics

Infants and Babies under one year are at greatest danger

  • Your pediatrician may want to start the DTaP immunization for your Infant early (begin at 6 weeks rather than 2 months).
  • Protection increases with each vaccination: it takes three shots (by 6 months of age) before babies have enough protection. Keeping to the schedule becomes more important than ever when there is so much whooping cough in the community.

Vaccine Recommendations

A new recommendation for pertussis was issued by the California Department of Health on July 19, 2010. This recommendation encourages everyone that is 7 years and older and around babies to get a pertussis Tdap booster. Pregnant women and new parents are strongly encouraged to be immunized as well. Most children and adults have been immunized. However, protection weakens over time. Individuals may not get very sick but they will be contagious and pass the pertussis bacteria on to newborns and infants, or to other unimmunized persons. To protect yourself from pertussis there is a 5-dose vaccine called DTaP (Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis). Children should receive this vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, as well as between 12 to 18 months and 4-6 years. All children should receive the full series of shots on time. Babies are not fully protected until the 6-month (3rd) dose.

Who Needs to be Immunized?

  • All caretakers and close/household contacts of infants and babies under one year should be protected against whooping cough) with a pertussis booster (Tdap).
  • Expectant couples, new parents and siblings 7 years or older and other household members should get a pertussis booster as soon as possible.
  • Childcare and healthcare workers should receive a pertussis booster at least two weeks before having contact with a newborn.
  • Children younger than 7 should have 5 doses of DTaP.

How Can I Protect My Family?

  • Make sure you and all household members have a pertussis/tetanus booster.
  • Insist that persons who have close contact with or care for your infant have had a pertussis Tdap booster (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis).
  • Keep people with coughs away from your child.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • See your health care provider if you have a persistent cough.

What are the Symptoms of Pertussis?

Early symptoms are like the commond cold:

  • Runny nose
  • Low or no fever
  • Sneezing
  • Mild cough

Symptoms after 1-2 weeks:

  • Vomiting
  • Red or blue face
  • Problems breathing
  • Extreme tiredness
  • A “whoop” sound
  • Sweating spells

Symptoms in infants are different
Infants younger than 6 months old often do not have a typical cough. In the early stages, infants may:

  • Gasp or gag
  • Get very tired
  • Stop breathing
  • Seizures
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