Medicine is a constantly changing science and clearly established definitions and therapies are not always available for every condition and may vary based on their application to your loved one. In addition to these resources, we encourage you to ask questions regarding your family member to their specific Health Care provider or MD in charge.
What Is Pertussis?
| What Is the Pertussis Vaccine?
| Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
| What Are the Risks Associated With the Pertussis Vaccine?
| Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
| What Other Ways Can Pertussis Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
| What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
What Is Pertussis?
Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lining and airways of the respiratory tract. It is caused by the bacterium
Pertussis is spread by:
- Inhaling wet droplets from the sneeze or cough of a person infected with pertussis
- Having direct contact with the person’s respiratory secretions
This infection is most common in infants and children. People at most risk are those who:
- Have not been immunized
- Live or work with someone who has pertussis
- Live in close quarters (eg, dormitory, nursing home)
- Live in crowded or unsanitary conditions
- Are pregnant
What Is the Pertussis Vaccine?
The pertussis vaccine contains small, purified pieces of the pertussis germ. There are different types of the vaccines to prevent pertussis, including:
DTaP—given to children to protect against
tetanus, and pertussis
- Tdap—given to children, adolescents, and adults to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and
The vaccine is given as an injection, usually into the arm or thigh.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The DTaP vaccine is generally required before starting school. The regular immunization schedule is to give the vaccine at:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 15-18 months
- 4-6 years
Tdap is routinely recommended for children aged 11-12 years who have completed the DTaP series. Tdap can also be given to:
- Children aged 7-10 years who have not been fully vaccinated
- Children and teens aged 13-18 years who did not get the Tdap when they were 11-12 years old
- Adults under 65 years who have never received Tdap
- Pregnant women after 20 weeks gestation who have not previously received Tdap
- Adults who have not been previously vaccinated and who have contact with babies aged 12 months or younger
- Healthcare providers who have not previously received Tdap
If you or your child has not been fully vaccinated against pertussis, talk to the doctor.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Pertussis Vaccine?
Most people tolerate the vaccines without any trouble. The most common side effects are:
- Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Mild fever
- Stomach ache
Uncommon symptoms include:
- Fever over 102ºF
- Severe gastrointestinal problems
- Severe headache
Nervous system problems or a severe allergic reaction, such as
(eg, Tylenol) is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medicine may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. However, in children at risk for siezures, a fever lowering medicine may be important to take. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with your doctor.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
Most people should receive their vaccinations on schedule. However, individuals in whom the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits include people who:
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to DTP, DTap, DT, Tdap, or Td vaccine
- Have had a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine to be given
Have gone into a
or long seizure within seven days after a dose of DTP or DTaP
Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have:
- Allergy to latex
- Epilepsy or other nervous system problem
- Severe swelling or severe pain after a previous dose of any component of the vaccination to be given
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Moderate or severe illness (Wait until you recover to get the vaccine.)
What Other Ways Can Pertussis Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
Isolating those with any contagious disease has long been the main approach to prevent its spread. It is essential, for example, to keep people with pertussis at home until the illness has run its course.
If you have come in close contact with someone who is infected, you may need to take antibiotics.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
In the event of an outbreak, all people who may have been exposed should be brought up to date with the vaccination. It is important to protect infants by isolating those who have the infection. Diagnosing the disease as quickly as possible can help control future outbreaks.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2009.
Ann Intern Med. 2009;150:40-44.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FDA approval of expanded age
indication for a tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccinations for adults. Immunization Action Coalition website. Available at:
http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4030.pdf. Accessed November 2, 2011.
Fisman DN, Tang P, Hauck T, Richardson S, Drews SJ, Low DE, Jamieson F.
Pertussis resurgence in Toronto, Canada: a population-based study including test-incidence feedback modeling.
BMC Public Health.
Friedrich MJ. Research aims to boost pertussis control.
Free CDC immunization resources. American Medical Association website. Available at:
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/36/flu_kit_resources.pdf. Accessed February 2, 2007.
Immunization issues. National Network of Immunization Information website. Available at:
http://www.immunizationinfo.org/immunization_issues_detail.cfv?id=96. Accessed February 2, 2007.
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Program website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/default.htm. Accessed February 2, 2007.
Recommended adult immunization schedule—United States, 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/wk/mm5901-Immunization.pdf. Published January 15, 2010. Accessed January 24, 2011.
Recommended adult immunization schedule—United States, 2012.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;6(4). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/downloads/adult/mmwr-adult-schedule.pdf. Accessed February 24, 2012.
Recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 0 through 6 years—United States 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/downloads/child/2010/10_0-6yrs-schedule-pr.pdf. Accessed January 24, 2011.
Recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 7 through 18 years—United States 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/downloads/child/7-18yrs-schedule-pr.pdf. Accessed February 24, 2012.
Tetanus, diphtheria (Td) or tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: what you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/downloads/child/2010/10_0-6yrs-schedule-pr.pdf. Published November 18, 2008. Accessed January 24, 2011.
1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5701a8.htm. Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.
10/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Prymula R, Siegrist C, Chlibek R, et al. Effect of prophylactic paracetamol administration at time of vaccination on febrile reactions and antibody responses in children: two open-label, randomised controlled trials.
1/24/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (tdap) vaccine from the advisory committee on immunization practices, 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
11/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in pregnant women and persons who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant aged <12 months—Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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