Slideshow: 10 Steps To Prevent Pertussis
Whooping Cough and Pertussis Slideshow: Is Your Baby Protected?
Know the Symptoms of Whooping Cough
Whooping cough, or pertussis, starts like a cold. After 1 to 2 weeks, the cold symptoms give way to intense bouts of coughing. The coughing may interfere with breathing and can cause vomiting. Pertussis can lead to complications that can be life-threatening, especially in infants. Symptoms are often milder in adults. Knowing the symptoms can lead to early diagnosis and treatment.
Pertussis Is Highly Contagious
The rod-shaped Bordetella pertussis bacteria (shown above in green) lodge themselves in the cilia (small hair-like structures) of the respiratory tract. They are spread in droplets from coughs and sneezes. A person with pertussis is contagious from the time the cold symptoms appear. The contagious period lasts up to 3 weeks after the coughing spells begin. The duration of illness can be 6-12 weeks long.
Everyone in your house should know how to help prevent spreading germs. Covering the mouth when you cough or sneeze is still the best way. Make sure to clean your hands after coughing or sneezing. The CDC recommends that you cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, if you don't have a tissue, rather than your hands.
Treat the Whole Family
Antibiotics such as erythromycin are used to treat whooping cough but need to be started in the first one to two weeks to significantly decrease the severity of the disease. Early treatment with antibiotics can also help prevent spreading the infection to other people. Anyone who has been exposed to pertussis should see the doctor for antibiotics to prevent infection.
Don't Spread the Bacteria
Don't delay getting treatment. The sooner you get it, the quicker you'll stop the spread of the bacteria to other people. Don't return to work or school until the doctor says you should. Remember, whooping cough can be deadly, and infants are at highest risk.
Vaccinate to Protect Your Baby
The DTaP vaccine is a vaccine that protects your baby against pertussis. Keep a record of the shots in a safe place. You'll need the records for school, and in case your baby is exposed to pertussis later on. Children should be vaccinated at:
• 2 months
• 4 months
• 6 months
• 15 to 18 months
• 4 to 6 years
Boost Protection for Adolescents
Immunity wears off over time. Since 1980 there has been a steady rise in the number of cases of pertussis among adolescents between age 11 and 18. The Tdap vaccine is a booster vaccine that has been approved for this age group. Protect your child by scheduling a booster shot at the age of 11 or 12.
Get Your Own Boosters
Immunity also wears off in adults. See your doctor about getting your own booster shot of the Tdap vaccine. With a booster shot, you can protect both you and your family from whooping cough.
Remind Caregivers to Get Boosters
Create a protective circle around your child. Remind caregivers and others around your child about the importance of getting a booster shot.
Ask the Doctor About Exceptions
Some people should not get the DTaP vaccine. Anyone with epilepsy or other certain problems of the nervous system shouldn't get it. Others with serious illness might be advised to wait. And any child who had a serious reaction to an earlier dose should not receive another one. Talk with your doctor about your child's health and reactions before proceeding.
Whooping Cough Facts
Each year, more than 10,000 Americans get whooping cough, also called pertussis. Anyone can get it, but pertussis is especially dangerous for babies.
The coughing spells can be so severe that it becomes hard for babies to eat, drink, or breathe.