Whooping Cough

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough, formally known as pertussis, is a very contagious respiratory illness caused by a certain type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria of the disease attach to the cilia that line part of the upper respiratory system and then releases toxins, which then damages the cilia and causes the airways of the respiratory system to swell.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, gets its common moniker from the severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop.”

It primarily affects children too young to have completed the full course of whooping cough vaccinations and teenagers or adults whose immunity has faded.

Whooping cough symptoms

The early signs of whooping cough usually begin with cold-like symptoms and sometimes a cough or fever. In babies or toddlers, the cough can be slight or not present at all. Pertussis is most dangerous for babies.

Symptoms of whooping cough usually come in roughly two stages. Early symptoms can last for 1– 2 weeks and can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)
  • Mild, occasional cough
  • Apnea—a pause in breathing (in babies)
source: cdc.gov

Later-stage symptoms of whooping cough

After the earliest stages of the disease (in about 1-2 weeks), the more traditional symptoms of pertussis may appear. They include:

  • Fits of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound
  • Vomiting during or after coughing fits
  • Exhaustion after coughing fits
  • Can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from your lungs. When there is no more air in the lungs, you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. This extreme coughing can cause vomiting and exhaustion.
  • Patients can usually appear fairly well in-between. Coughing fits can become more common and worsen as the illness continues, and occur more often at night. These fits can last for up to 10 weeks or more.

What is the difference Between Tdap and DTaP immunizations?

There are two different types of vaccines for whooping cough, known by their shortened initialisms, Tdap and DTaP.

Both contain inactivated forms of the toxin produced by the bacteria that cause the three diseases that make up the vaccine itself. “Inactivated” means the substance no longer produces disease, but does trigger the human body to create antibodies in order to provide immunity against the toxins themselves.

Tdap vs DTaP

  DTaP Tdap
Age For children under 7 Booster shot at age 11, or any time between 19 and 64
Purpose Develop immunity to diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough Booster adds continued protection from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough
Dosages 5 doses before age 7 1 every 10 years
Risks Risk of allergic reaction Risk of allergic reaction

Whooping cough vaccine

The current iteration of the whooping cough vaccination is meant for babies, children, preteens, teens and even adults. The whooping cough DTaP vaccine is for children and toddlers, with the Tdap booster vaccine meant for preteens, teens and adults.

The CDC recommends a whooping cough shot for all babies and children, preteens and teens, and even for pregnant women. Those older adults who’ve never gotten a Tdap booster shot should also get vaccinated against pertussis.

DTaP Vaccine Schedule

Children should get five doses of the DTaP vaccine at the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15–18 months
  • 4–6 years

DTaP may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Whooping cough vaccine for adults

Adults age 19 years and older require a one-time whooping cough booster. Tdap is a combination vaccine with tetanus and diphtheria. The following patients should also get a booster:

  • Pregnant women should get the vaccine during the third trimester
  • All adults who anticipate close contact with babies younger than 12 months, ideally at least two weeks before contact

Whooping cough vaccine side effects  

Tdap and DTap vaccine side effects are mild, if present at all. The risk of the vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small.

Mild side effects:

  • Fever
  • Redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Soreness or tenderness at the injection site
  • Fussiness
  • Tiredness or poor appetite
  • Vomiting

Moderate side effects (uncommon)

  • Seizure
  • Non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more
  • High fever, over 105°F

Pharmaca whooping cough vaccine

Pharmaca offers Tdap booster shots, which offer immunization against whooping cough (pertussis), as well as diphtheria and tetanus.

Incidences of whooping cough infections have dramatically increased across the country in the last two years, and in many states (including California and Colorado), state law now requires that middle school and high school students be vaccinated before entering school.

Where can I get the whooping cough vaccine?

Thinking of getting a whooping cough vaccination? Contact your local Pharmaca pharmacy to schedule an appointment.

We’ve been offering many immunizations recommended by the CDC for certain health concerns and before travel abroad for many years. We accept most major insurance providers so that your immunizations can be convenient and affordable.