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How To Prevent Whooping Cough?

Also known as pertussis, this bacterial infection can be deadly. Thankfully, there's an easy way to prevent your child from catching it.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
2-minute read

Whooping cough (or pertussis) is an infection caused by a bacteria named bordetella pertussis. The infection is spread through the air when a person coughs, which means that it is easily spread from an infected person to a susceptible one.

The good news: Pertussis can be prevented with a vaccine.

The bad news: Despite the vaccine, the disease has recently been making a comeback.

The vaccine wears off after a while, and so people become susceptible to it again. For a long time, the last immunization came at age 5. That was because previously immunized adults get a milder version of the disease. The problem is not in adults getting the infection, though; the main problem is with those adults transmitting the disease to under-immunized infants.

I know you may be expecting me to rant a little about the people who are refusing vaccinations for their kids. Even though these people do put their children at risk of getting and spreading the disease, the real problem occurs in children under 6 months -- even those who have gotten vaccinated. Until the first 3 pertussis immunizations are given, a child is still susceptible to infection -- an infection that could kill them.  

So the real problem comes from infected adults passing it on to infants, so if I am going to rant, it’s going to be to urge any adults -- especially those who spend significant time around young children -- to get immunized against pertussis. If people would get vaccinated, there would be less infections, and with less infections, there would be less infants dying from this preventable disease.

2 Quick and Dirty Tips for preventing whooping cough

  1. Get your children vaccinated with as quickly as possible. All children should get their third pertussis immunization at the 6 month visit.

  2. All adults who spend any significant time around small children should get vaccinated as well.

Child coughing image from Shutterstock.

Medical Disclaimer
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education. 

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