Are you pregnant or know someone who is? Here are eight things you need to know about Pertussis and the Tdap Vaccination. Below are the most common questions we are asked here in the office.

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection marked by a severe hacking cough that is followed by a high-pitched inspiration that sounds like a “whoop.” The incidence of whooping cough has increased over time likely due to vaccine-related immunity that wears off over time. From 2000 to 2014 there were 277 recorded pertussis-related deaths in the united states and about 87% (241 cases) occurred in infants under the age of 3 months.

How Pertussis Spreads?

Like the common cold, pertussis is spread by respiratory droplets –coughing, sneezing, breathing. The germs are expelled into the air where they can be easily inhaled by others. Pertussis is highly contagious and according to the CDC, almost everyone who is not immune will become sick if exposed to the bacterium. Whooping cough is most contagious in the early days of infection.

What Symptoms Should You Look For?

Not everyone will experience a “whooping cough” and other symptoms often include a runny nose, low-grade fever, and a mild occasional cough. Later symptoms may include extreme tiredness and coughing fits that may end in vomiting or exhaustion. Babies may also even stop breathing for short periods of time.

Symptoms in Babies Are Often Different

Babies younger than 6 months old with pertussis do not have a typical cough. They may gasp, gag, feed poorly, turn blue around the mouth, or even stop breathing. Symptoms can progress very quickly, and babies often require hospitalization.

How To Protect Your Baby?

As an adult, you may catch whooping cough due to your own childhood vaccination wearing off. You should receive a pertussis booster shot (Tdap) with every pregnancy regardless of receiving a previous Tdap vaccination. The vaccination should be administered between 27 and 36 weeks pregnant. By protecting yourself from the vaccination, you will also protect your baby. Some of the antibodies can help protect the baby during the first few months of life before they can receive their own vaccinations. If there is an outbreak of pertussis in the community, it is ok for a pregnant mother to receive the vaccination prior to 27 weeks.

Why Must I Receive the Vaccination with Each Pregnancy?

The amount of whooping cough antibodies in your body decreases over time. That is why the CDC recommends you get a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy. Doing so allows each of your babies to get the greatest number of protective antibodies from you, thus getting the best protection possible against the disease.

How Others Can Help Protect Your Baby?

You should ensure that anyone that lives with your baby or anyone who helps take care of your baby receives the Tdap vaccination prior to the birth of your baby.

Treat Whooping Cough Early

You should call your doctor immediately should you, a family member, or your baby begins to exhibit any of the symptoms of whooping cough. Antibiotics may be prescribed to keep you from getting sicker, and to prevent you from spreading the disease to others. Antibiotics may also be given to babes and other household members to protect them from becoming sick.

Contact us if you have more questions and would like to schedule a visit.