What’s the word about Pertussis?

Many adults have not heard much about Pertussis aside from it being one of the common vaccines a young child will receive. This is a good thing, that means the vaccine for Pertussis is working, and people are not at risk for the harm that could come from getting it. However, that doesn’t mean education isn’t important. Read on to learn more about what Pertussis is, how crucial getting immunized against it is, and more about its safety.

What is Pertussis?

  • Bacterial infection occurs in three stages.
    1. Common cold, runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever, and coughing.
    2. One week or two later, the illness progresses and one will see a big intake of air or a “whoop.” The coughing fits can be so violent that blood vessels can rupture, and ribs can break. Infants, whose windpipes are narrower than those of older children, often turn blue during coughing spells because of a lack of oxygen. This stage can last up to two months.
    3. In the final stage, which also often lasts for weeks or months, coughing spells gradually decrease in frequency and intensity. Pertussis used to be called the “100-day cough” because of how long the cough lasted.

Pertussis (whooping cough) sickens people each year and sometimes leads to the deaths of young infants when they are infected. Although pertussis outbreaks that sicken thousands typically occur every three to five years in the United States, recent outbreaks have brought attention to two important points — immunity to pertussis is not lifelong, and pockets of unimmunized people in a community make controlling outbreaks extremely difficult.

When I get this vaccine I heard DTap, Why?
  • In the 1990s a newer and safer vaccine was made available with different components and proteins in order to make the vaccine purer. When scientists created this new pertussis vaccine was combined with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines in a combination called DTaP to shorten it.
I have heard DTap and TDAP what is the difference?
  • DTap is for infants (2, 4, and 6 months with a booster at 15 months and 4 years old)
  • TDap is for older children starting at 11 years old and adults. They will get a similar series of shots with boosters.
Are the DTaP and Tdap vaccines safe? YES
  • About one of every three babies and young children will have pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.
  • A small number will develop a fever following the DTaP vaccine.
  • Although about one of every 10,000 children who get the DTaP vaccine will experience a frightening reaction such as uncontrollable crying, high fever, or seizure, none will be permanently harmed.

A child who has a severe reaction to the vaccine should not get additional doses in order to be safe. It’s always best to consult with your primary care doctor before getting any vaccine.

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