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

To protect young children 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 15 to 18 months and 4-6 years. All children should receive the full series of shots on time.

A vaccine called Tdap is similar to DTaP. Children age 7 or older and all adults should also receive at least one Tdap vaccine. People who did not get Tdap at that age should get it as soon as possible.

Tdap is especially important for health care professionals and anyone having close contact with a baby younger than 12 months.

Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, preferably between the early part of gestational weeks 27–36, to protect the newborn from pertussis.  Immunizing when the mom is pregnant not only protects the mom, but also gives baby protection until they are old enough to start the vaccine series (usually two months old).  Infants are most at risk for severe, life-threatening complications from pertussis.

Another vaccine, called Td, protects against tetanus and diphtheria, but not pertussis. It is recommended every 10 years.

How Can I Protect My Family?

  • Make sure you and all household members are up to date with the pertussis vaccine
  • 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 common 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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