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Whooping Cough Vaccine Protects Against Life-Threatening Illness

Last updated: January 27, 2021

Whooping cough can be much more than a temporary setback. In fact, certain complications of the disease can be life-threatening. Receiving the whooping cough vaccine can make all the difference, says Dr. Kevin Hayes, a Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton. This is particularly true among younger patients and pregnant women.

Vaccination Recommendations

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious, person-to-person bacterial respiratory disease. It’s named for the gasping sound that occurs between severe coughing fits. The uncontrollable coughing that often accompaniees the infection can make it difficult to breathe as well as eat and drink.

“Anyone can contract whooping cough — adults and children alike,” Dr. Hayes says.

Doctors recommend the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine for infants starting at 2 months old.

Infants and young children who haven’t yet received the vaccination are at highest risk for complications, Dr. Hayes says. Whooping cough in babies and young children can cause more serious and life-threatening problems. These include difficulty breathing, noticeable pauses or stopped breathing, seizures, pneumonia, and brain damage.

Whooping Cough in Kids and Adults

Older children and adults usually have milder symptoms. However, the coughing may become so violent that it can cause rib fractures, fainting, or loss of bladder control, Dr. Hayes says.

The Tdap vaccine is for older children and adults. Parents of older kids and adults should talk to their doctor about receiving the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy receive the vaccine. It’s also important for loved ones who spend time with infants to ensure they’re up to date on their Tdap vaccine.

Importance of Wellness Visits

Wellness checks help care teams monitor the health and development of infants and toddlers, Dr. Hayes says. These visits are a great opportunity to discuss any concerns parents might have about their child. These include eating/feeding issues, sleep schedules, immunizations, growth, and overall development.

“It also gives us an opportunity to potentially identify concerns that may not be obvious to caregivers,” Dr. Hayes says.

Staying on top of vaccines

Doctors also can discuss needed vaccines. They can help prevent diseases such as whooping cough, measles, and polio. These can lead to serious long-term health issues and even death.

“Children get several vaccinations in their first two years of life,” Dr. Hayes says. “The CDC and other professional health organizations have studied and recommended the vaccine schedule that ThedaCare follows. 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.”

Dr. Hayes recommends people ask their provider about the vaccination schedule for their 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 says. “Reducing the exposure and spread of disease helps protect everyone. Chat with your provider and develop a plan for preventing whooping cough.”

Contact your primary care provider to learn the recommended vaccination schedule for you and your family members.

Tags: common vaccines pertussis pertussis vaccine whooping cough whooping cough prevention whooping cough vaccination whooping cough vaccine

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