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Whooping cough vaccine: What you need to know

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, often starts with cold-like symptoms before progressing into more serious coughing that resembles a high-pitched, whooping sound.

A cough can start for so many reasons: a dry throat, choking on a piece of food, walking by a plume of smoke, or the common cold. The list goes on and on.

Sometimes that cough is more than just a tickle in your throat. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, often starts with cold-like symptoms before progressing into more serious coughing that resembles a high-pitched, whooping sound. These coughing fits are sometimes so severe that they cause exhaustion and vomiting. Sometimes symptoms can last for as long as 10 weeks, which is why it is known in China as the "100-day cough."

If you've received all your whooping cough vaccinations, you most likely don't need to worry. Even if a whooping cough outbreak happens, full immunization will reduce the severity of your symptoms.

To prevent an outbreak, which most recently happened in 2012, health professionals encourage people of all ages to get vaccinated for whooping cough. The consequences of avoiding the pertussis vaccine are apparent. Before the vaccine was developed in the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of cases of whooping cough were reported each year.

Because coughs are so common, cases of whooping cough can go unreported, allowing the disease to spread quickly. One person with whooping cough can infect 12 to 15 people by coughing and sneezing near others. To put that in perspective, the transmission rates of COVID-19 have been between 2 to 2.5 people.

There are two vaccines that help reduce the contraction and spread of whooping cough. DTaP is for children younger than 7 years old, and Tdap is for anyone older than 7. These vaccines also protect people against tetanus and diphtheria.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children should receive a DTaP shot at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months old, another between 15 and 18 months old, and a fifth one when they are between 4 and 6 years old. After that, Tdap boosters are recommended as needed, based on whether someone is fully vaccinated. Pregnant women who receive a Tdap vaccine during their third trimester can start passing antibodies against whooping cough to their baby before birth.

Babies and young children are most at risk of developing severe cases of whooping cough, often because they haven't received all of their vaccinations yet. Even babies who are taken to the hospital for treatment can die from the disease. Because of this risk, the CDC says mothers and anyone around a newborn should be up to date on their whooping cough vaccinations to avoid spreading the disease to the baby after birth.

Along with vaccination, the CDC recommends following good hygiene practices, such as covering your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve, washing your hands, and disposing of used tissues properly.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you have any concerns, please speak with your doctor.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we'll bring you information about the "Cause of the Month," including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. August is National Immunization Awareness Month.