Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Whooping Cough Vaccines: Not Just for Kids

Getting protected against whooping cough is important, and not only for children. There are lots of reasons teens and adults need to get vaccinated too.

The whooping cough vaccine booster designed for teens and adults is called Tdap. Here's why it's important to get it:

Adults get whooping cough. You may think whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is something only children or babies get. But adults can get sick, too.

Adults pass whooping cough to babies. Although whooping cough is rarely deadly in teens or adults, you can pass it on to a baby who has not gotten the vaccine.

Whooping cough in babies can be a serious illness. It can cause breathing problems and pneumonia, and sometimes is deadly. Very young infants are especially vulnerable, since the whooping cough vaccine isn't given to babies until they are 2 months old.

Protection from the childhood vaccine is short-lived. The childhood vaccine provides good but relatively short protection. Your immunity to whooping cough starts going away 5 to 10 years after your last childhood vaccine.

Even if you've had whooping cough, your immunity to the disease can wear off.

Tdap: The Whooping Cough Vaccine for Adults

The Tdap booster vaccine has been in use since 2005. A single shot makes you about 90% immune to whooping cough. Exactly how long it works is unknown, but it seems to be at least 5 years. It also protects against tetanus and diphtheria.

The CDC says adults and children age 11 and up should get a Tdap booster shot.

Preteens and teens can get it instead of the usual tetanus booster that’s due around the same time.

Adults can get the Tdap at any time. If you had the tetanus booster not too long ago, though, check with your doctor. It may be better to wait a few years.

You should get a Tdap vaccine if you are pregnant, preferably between weeks 27 and 36 of your pregnancy. You should get the Tdap booster each time you are pregnant.

How to Recognize and Treat Whooping Cough

If you're not vaccinated against whooping cough, it's very easy to catch. It's spread when someone who has it sneezes, sniffles, or coughs.

Early symptoms are like those of the common cold. After a week or so, you get a cough that may become severe and last for many weeks. If you gasp for air after a coughing fit, you may hear the telltale "whoop" sound. This is more common in children than adults.

If you were immunized as a child, you will likely have a milder case. You might have light cold symptoms or none at all. The cough may be severe, or just annoying. You may even spread whooping cough without ever knowing you have it.

Your doctor can check you for whooping cough with a simple nasal swab test. Antibiotics may ease your symptoms and prevent spread, especially if you take them during the first few weeks of the cough.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on February 04, 2014

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
 
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool