Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Whooping Cough

Feb 1, 2018

Tdap Vaccine Provides Protection

whooping cough vaccine

Coughing is a common part of cold and flu season. Most of the time coughs clear up on their own and certainly aren’t life-threatening. But pertussis (commonly known as “whooping cough”) is another story. It can be hard to diagnose at first because it has the same symptoms as the common cold: mild coughing, sneezing, runny nose and low fever. Seven to 10 days later, it’s a different story as the mild coughing worsens into an uncontrollable dry cough that sounds like barking. Sometimes the coughing fits are capped off with a “whooping” sound as the individual struggles to breathe.

“Whooping cough is a respiratory illness caused by bacteria,” says Mohita Patel, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at the USMD Frisco Clinic. “Bacteria gets into the airways and attaches to tiny hairs that line the lungs and causes swelling and inflammation. It can develop into pneumonia, and is especially dangerous for newborns and babies under six-months old because they don’t yet have protective immunities built up. Sometimes the non-stop coughing causes them to stop breathing.”

Over-the-counter cough suppressants and expectorants can’t effectively treat whooping cough because it’s a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for whooping cough based on suspicion and even culture diagnosis, however without treatment most pertussis cases will clear up within six weeks.

Fortunately, whooping cough is preventable thanks to a very effective vaccine that has very few side effects. There are two types of pertussis vaccines—one for children and one for adults.

DTaP for Kids

This vaccine provides powerful protection against three types of bacteria—diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. “Diphtheria can be a serious upper respiratory infection that can also manifest as a skin condition,” says Dr. Patel. “It can lead to respiratory failure, as well, due to the effects of the toxin on the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. That’s why it’s important that parents ensure their children are vaccinated. Thanks to the vaccine, the infection is not as common as it once was.”

Children between two-months old and six-years old should receive five doses of the DTaP vaccine. At 11 years of age, they should receive another booster—the Tdap booster, which provides continued protection from those three diseases.

Tdap for Adults

Around the age of 21, all adults should receive the Tdap booster vaccine again—and again every 10 years afterward to receive ongoing protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

“As adults we tend to forget that we still need vaccines,” says Dr. Patel. “The Center for Disease Control requires every adult get at least one Tdap booster to ensure they’re protected from pertussis and tetanus.”

Tetanus bacteria can be picked up through any kind of dirty cut in the skin. “Typically, tetanus bacteria lives around rust, soil and animal feces,” Dr. Patel explains. “The vaccine protects you from dirty and jagged cuts, puncture wounds, animal bites. You want to keep it up to date because tetanus bacteria can affect your muscles and nerves, and in rare cases it can lead to respiratory failure and death.”

Diphtheria is another type of bacteria that causes upper respiratory illness. It tends to not be as severe as pertussis, so you don’t hear much about it because young children mostly get diphtheria.

Anyone who is around young children—grandparents, teachers, daycare providers—should get the Tdap vaccine every year. “It’s not harmful, and your vaccine will actually help protect them from contracting pertussis,” Dr. Patel says.

Tdap for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women are also helping protect their child when they get the Tdap vaccine. “It’s really important for pregnant women to get the vaccine somewhere between the 28th to 36th week of their pregnancy,” advises Dr. Patel. “Some of the protective antibodies that you’ll be producing as a response to the vaccine will be actually be passed on to the child.”

Visit your doctor. Get your vaccines!

A few minutes and a quick and painless prick of the skin are all it takes to protect yourself and the ones you love. Dr. Patel and the caring physicians at USMD are here to help. To schedule and appointment with Dr. Patel, call 972.377.1490.

Dr. Mohita Patel Family Medicine Doctor

Dr. Mohita Patel, USMD Health System Family Medicine Physician