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January 27, 2021

Whooping Cough Vaccine Protects Young Kids

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, patients should also remember the importance of vaccinating for whooping cough – most importantly, the youngest patients of all.

ThedaCare Physician Also Recommends Adults, Pregnant Women Get Vaccinated

January 27, 2021

NEENAH, Wis. – ThedaCare teams are currently developing the best infrastructure possible to prepare when the time comes to begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to the greater community, as recommended by federal and state authorities. As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, patients should also remember the importance of vaccinating for whooping cough – most importantly, the youngest patients of all.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious, person-to-person bacterial respiratory disease. Its name comes from the gasping sound that adults and children make as they breathe deeply in between coughing fits. The uncontrollable coughing that can accompany the infection can make it difficult to breathe as well as eat and drink.

“Anyone can contract whooping cough – adults and children alike,” said Dr. Kevin Hayes, Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton. “Vaccinations are recommended from infancy, starting with the DTaP vaccine – diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis – for babies starting at two months old.”

At highest risk for complications are infants and young children who haven’t yet received the vaccination, Dr. Hayes said. Pertussis in babies and young children can cause more serious and life-threatening problems such as difficulty breathing, noticeable pauses or stopped breathing, seizures, pneumonia or brain damage.

While older children and adults usually have milder symptoms, occasionally the coughing becomes so violent it can cause rib fractures, fainting, or loss of bladder control, Dr. Hayes said.

Everyone, including adults who have already had whooping cough or received the DTaP vaccine as a child, should talk to their provider about receiving the Tdap, which is for older children and adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy also receive the vaccine.

Importance of Wellness Visits

“Wellness checks help care teams monitor the health and development of infants and toddlers,” said Dr. Hayes. “These visits are a great opportunity to discuss any concerns parents might have about their child, such as eating/feeding issues, sleep schedules, immunizations, growth and overall development. It also gives us an opportunity to potentially identify concerns that may not have been obvious to caregivers.”

Dr. Hayes cited diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and other diseases that can cause serious long-term health issues and also death.

“In the first two years of a child’s life, they get several vaccinations,” he said. “The schedule ThedaCare follows has been studied and recommended by the CDC and other professional health organizations. This schedule is the most effective in terms of immune response and protection against the common viruses and bacteria that can be fatal to infants and young children, and/or affect their growth and development in the long term.”

ThedaCare has gone to great lengths to make facilities safe so team members can provide care for patients and families.

  • Anyone who enters a ThedaCare facility will be required to wear a mask.        
  • Patients will be asked to maintain six feet social distancing from all other patients.
  • For well-child visits, ThedaCare asks that only one parent/caregiver accompany the child and not bring other siblings. Exceptions will be allowed, but parents should discuss their concerns when scheduling the appointment.
  • Everyone will be asked a series of screening questions about any possible exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and if they have any symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or problems with vomiting or diarrhea. If those symptoms are present, the appointment should be rescheduled.
  • Everyone will have their temperature checked; either via an ear probe or forehead scan, or in some cases, via an oral check. As long as their temperature is below 99.7 degrees F., they will be allowed to enter.

Dr. Hayes recommend patients ask their providers about the vaccination schedule for children, and about getting the pertussis vaccination themselves.

“Remember, getting the vaccine not only protects you, it also helps protect those around you who may be more vulnerable to developing complications,” Dr. Hayes said. “In a year when we’re already dealing with the very serious threat of COVID-19, reducing the exposure and spread of other diseases will help protect everyone. Chat with your provider and develop a plan for preventing pertussis.”

“Get Care Now”

ThedaCare is committed to protecting the health and safety of our neighbors. Delaying care can have serious consequences — particularly in the event of an emergency, like heart attack or stroke. Symptoms of these and other conditions should never be ignored or disregarded; ThedaCare teams are always prepared to provide lifesaving interventions while protecting patients from COVID-19.

Preventive care is equally important to us. To help protect patients and providers alike, enhanced safety protocols are in place for all ThedaCare facilities, including visitor restrictions and check-in screenings. Anyone presenting respiratory symptoms is safely isolated and COVID-19 patients receive care in our dedicated respiratory hub clinics. These steps, along with increased cleaning and appropriate use of PPE, make it possible for us to provide the care you need for any condition.

ThedaCare is also doing everything we can to make care more accessible — whether or not you feel comfortable visiting one of our facilities. In addition to offering more appointments and enhancing safety for in-person care, we’ve also expanded our virtual health services, including video visits, eVisits and a free, online symptom checker for COVID-19 screening. Virtual care options are available for primary, specialty and even urgent care needs, and are a convenient way to connect with a provider from the comfort of your own home. For more information about care options and clinic safety protocols, visit To make a health care appointment for yourself or a loved one, visit or call your primary care provider.

For those who would like more information about COVID-19, vaccines, testing, online care options, an online symptom checker, community resources, prevention guidelines and other important news and updates, please visit