Health Services: What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough—or pertussis—is a very serious respiratory (in the lungs and breathing tubes) infection caused by the pertussis bacteria. It causes violent coughing you can’t stop.
What are the symptoms of whooping cough?
Whooping cough starts with the following symptoms:
- Runny or stuffed-up nose
- Mild cough
- A pause in breathing in infants (apnea)
- After 1 to 2 weeks, coughing, which can be severe, starts.
- "Whooping cough" makes it hard to breathe, eat, drink, or sleep.
- Coughing fits happen more at night.
- Coughing fits can last for 10 weeks and sometimes recur with the next respiratory illness.
How does whooping cough spread?
Whooping cough spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. A person can spread the disease while he or she has cold-like symptoms and for at least 2 weeks after coughing starts.
What is the DTaP vaccine?
The DTaP vaccine is a shot that combines the vaccines for whooping cough (pertussis) and two other serious diseases: diphtheria and tetanus. The DTaP vaccine protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria.
Most children (about 89 children out of 100) who get all doses of the DTaP vaccine will be protected from whooping cough.
Booster vaccine for pre-teens and adults continues protection from whooping cough.
Protection from the DTaP vaccine for babies and young children decrease over time. When this happens, a person is at risk for getting and spreading whooping cough.
A one-time booster vaccine called Tdap for pre-teens and adults helps people stay protected against the disease.
Pre-teens should get the Tdap vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age.
Adults and teens who didn’t get the Tdap vaccine as pre-teens also should get it. This is very important for families and caregivers of babies.