How to Protect Your Family From Whooping Cough

How to Protect Your Family From Whooping Cough

The Whooping Crane is an endangered species—about 400 of these noisy, five-foot tall birds are left in North America. If only whooping cough—that’s pertussis—a virulent, life-threatening infection, could be wiped out instead. In the 1970s there were only a couple thousand reported cases annually in the U.S.; but in 2014 the number hit over 32,000.

The reasons this disease wasn’t eradicated when it was endangered, as small pox was, may be because of the evolution of the bacteria to avoid the shot’s targeted cause, the unfortunate resistance among some parents to having children inoculated, or the possibility that the immunization loses effectiveness over time. But whatever the reason, it’s imperative kids be protected as much as possible from the infection. Globally, it kills an estimated 195,000 children a year, many under the age of one.

Fortunately, there are vaccines: The childhood vaccine (for kids 6 months of age and older) is called DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis); the pertussis booster vaccine for adults is called Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), and should be received every 10 years.

There’s a potentially big gap in protection for newborns, who cannot get inoculated for six months, but there’s a solution. According to a study published in Pediatrics, a child’s risk of whooping cough is slashed by 91.4 percent during the first two months of life if their mother-to-be gets a Tdap booster while pregnant. So, if you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about getting a booster shot. Everyone will breathe easier.

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

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