Pertussis on the Rise: What You Need to Know


There might be a bad coughing illness in your child’s community. This illness is frequently spread by teenagers and adults to children. Sometimes teens and adults complain that they have a bad cough that just won’t go away. They might not worry too much about the cough or they might think the cough is due to allergies. It might not make them too sick, so they tend to forget that it’s not normal to be coughing.

Babies and children have the highest risk

Babies and children who get this coughing illness can be very sick, and sometimes their cough is so bad they need to be cared for in the hospital. This bad coughing illness has a name – Pertussis. It’s also called Whooping Cough because coughing can be so forcefully that a “whooping sound” follows the coughing. Sometimes vomiting can follow the coughing, too.

What can I do to help prevent Whooping Cough? 

In the United States there is an increase in Pertussis. There are things you can do to prevent you or your child from getting sick with Pertussis. The best way to prevent this disease is to make sure that both children and adults are immunized against Pertussis.  The vaccine for babies and young children is DTaP and for teens and adults it is Tdap.   Here are the recommended times for immunizations:

  1. Babies:  2, 4, and 6 months of age.
  2. Toddlers: again between15 to 18 months of age.
  3. Children: one more time between 4 to 6 years of age.
  4. Teens: a booster as early at 10 years of age but for sure by 15 years of age.
  5. Pregnant women: a booster between 27 to 36 weeks of every pregnancy. This will help protect the baby from Pertussis until the baby is old enough to be immunized.
  6. Adults: one booster – and this includes new fathers, grandparents and others who haven’t had a Tdap.   

Check with your healthcare provider if:

  1. You don’t know you or your child’s immunization status.
  2. You or your child get a forceful, coughing illness, have difficulty breathing, or vomit after coughing.
  3. You or your child have close contact (especially to family members) who have a bad coughing illness.

And remember it’s not normal to be coughing.

For more information visit the Center for Disease Control’s pertussis page or download Primary Children’s Let’s Talk About Whooping Cough (Pertussis) fact sheet.