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Pertussis - Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is very contagious and can lead to serious illness, especially in babies who aren't fully vaccinated. Many babies who get whooping cough are infected by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease. People with whooping cough usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the bacteria that cause the disease.

Whooping cough disease starts like the common cold, with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe a mild cough or fever. But after 1–2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, whooping cough can lead to fits of violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until all the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound. In babies, the cough can be minimal or not even there. They may instead have life-threatening pauses in breathing (apnea). +more

Statistics about babies who get whooping cough:

  • Around 1 in 2 babies under one year of age who get the disease need treatment in the hospital.
  • Around 1 in 4 babies hospitalized with whooping cough get pneumonia (lung infection).
  • Around 2 in 3 babies will have trouble breathing.
  • Whooping cough can be deadly for 1 or 2 in 100 babies who are hospitalized.

Protect your Baby through Vaccination:

Pregnant Mothers

Pregnant mothers should talk to their Doctor about Tdap vaccination during the third trimester of pregnancy (between the 27th and 36th weeks). Vaccination with Tdap during pregnancy gives the baby short-term protection from:

  • Whooping cough
  • Pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Encephalopathy (disease of the brain)
Getting the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy does provide your baby some short-term protection but he needs his own vaccine to protect him as he grows up.


The recommended whooping cough vaccine for children is called DTaP. This is a safe and effective vaccine that protects children against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough. For best protection against whooping cough, children need five doses of DTaP - one dose at each of the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15 through 18 months
  • 4 through 6 years

Family and Caregivers

Anyone who comes in close contact with your baby, from older siblings and cousins to grandparents and caregivers, should be up-to-date with whooping cough vaccination.

Get the Tdap vaccine at least two weeks before coming into close contact with a baby. This gives your body enough time to build up immunity against whooping cough.

Only one dose of Tdap is necessary for most people 11 years and older. If an adult will be around your baby and has already had Tdap vaccine, they do not need to get vaccinated again.

Getting Vaccinated

The Pertussis (Tdap or DTaP) vaccines can be obtained through:

Whooping cough vaccines are very effective for protecting babies, but not 100% effective. There is still a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch this very contagious disease. Vaccine protection for whooping cough also decreases over time. If you have been vaccinated and still get whooping cough, you will have fewer coughing fits, shorter illness, and be less likely to suffer from disease complications.

When you or your child develops a cold that includes a prolonged or severe cough, it may be whooping cough. The best way to know is to contact your doctor.

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Links:

For Everyone:

For Healthcare Professionals: