Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Vaccines Health Center

Font Size

Whooping Cough Increasing Among Teens

Most Parents Don't Know Vaccine Protection Wanes, Survey Shows
WebMD Health News

Oct. 21, 2004 -- Whooping cough is still alive and well contrary to what most parents think.

Betty May Graham first thought her 14-year-old son, Zach, had a bad cold or the flu when his coughing began two autumns ago. Within a few weeks, though, the coughing fits became so violent that he would frequently vomit after having one.

"One morning he was coughing so hard he was having trouble breathing. That is when I got really scared," she tells WebMD.

When a pulmonary specialist diagnosed whooping cough, known medically as pertussis, Graham says she was shocked.

"He had had all of his shots as a baby, and I just assumed that he was protected," she says.

Whooping Cough Outbreaks Increasing

Graham is not alone. A newly published survey shows that fewer than one in five parents of teens questioned considered whooping cough an illness of concern, despite the fact that outbreaks in middle and high schools have increased in recent years.

"Parents tend to think that if their kids have been vaccinated they don't have to worry, and while that is true for younger children, it isn't true for teens and young adults," adolescent medicine specialist Amy Middleman, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, tells WebMD.

The current pertussis immunization schedule calls for five doses of vaccine to be given by age 6, and protection typically lasts between five and 10 years after the last dose of vaccine is given. The decreased immune protection as the vaccine wears off leaves many teens unprotected against the illness.

In the survey, conducted by the Society for Adolescent Medicine, just 15% of parents questioned could accurately identify the duration of protection for whooping cough.

Despite increasing vaccination of infants and young children, the diagnosis of whooping cough has nearly tripled over the last two decades. This is partly due to better ways of identifying the disease, but it is also due to a real increase among adolescents and young adults, experts say. Almost 40% of whooping cough cases reported in 2003 occurred in children between the ages of 10 and 19, according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2003 there were 11,000 cases of whooping cough reported to the CDC, the highest reported in nearly 40 years. One thousand cases of whooping cough were reported in 1976.

Today on WebMD

Baby getting vaccinated
Is there a link? Get the facts.
syringes and graph illustration
Get a customized vaccine schedule.
baby getting a vaccine
Know the benefits and the risk
nurse holding syringe in front of girl
Should your child have it?

What To Know About The HPV Vaccine
24 Kid Illnesses Parents Should Know
Nausea and Vomiting Remedies Slideshow
Managing Immunization Schedules For Kids

Doctor administering vaccine to toddler
gloved hand holding syringe
infant receiving injection

WebMD Special Sections