Whooping Cough

Whooping Cough Fact Sheet

What is whooping cough?

  • Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a serious disease that spreads easily. It can cause severe coughing fits that may last for up to 100 days or more.

What are the signs and symptoms of whooping cough?

  • Whooping cough starts off like the common cold.
  • Symptoms of whooping cough may include a runny nose, sneezing and mild fever, as well as severe coughing fits that can lead to vomiting, making it hard to eat, drink, or breathe.

How is whooping cough spread?

  • Whooping cough is spread when a person with the disease coughs or sneezes.
  • A child who has whooping cough can easily spread it to classmates or family members who may not be protected.

Who is at risk?

  • Many preteens and teens may be at risk for whooping cough because protection from whooping cough shots they received as babies or young children begins to wear off about five to 10 years after their last shot.
  • Babies who have not received all of their shots for whooping cough may be at risk of catching the illness and, in rare cases, dying from the disease. Preteens and teens, as well as adults, are often the source of infection for infants.

Facts and figures about whooping cough

  • There were more than 25,000 cases of whooping cough reported in the US in 2005, with 30 percent of cases occurring among 10-19 year olds.
  • One study found that preteens and teens with whooping cough miss an average of more than one week of school.

How to prevent whooping cough

  • Shots can help prevent the disease.
  • Health experts recommend infants and children receive these shots (DTap), at the recommended ages, typically starting when they are two months old.
  • Experts recommend that adolescents 11 – 18 years old receive a booster shot (Tdap), with the preferred age being 11 – 12 years. The Tdap booster shot is a single shot that helps protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).
  • Parents are encouraged to speak with their child’s healthcare provider to make sure their preteen’s/teen’s shots are up-to-date.