Protecting Your Child From Pertussis

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a vaccine preventable disease which has been on the rise across the US and South Carolina.  There have been over 32,000 cases including 16 deaths in the U.S. this year according to the CDC.


Pertussis often causes a cold type illness for a week or two that progresses into a worsening cough. The cough can turn into “paroxysms” in which children will cough repeatedly and have trouble catching their breath.  They can cough so hard that they can vomit or turn blue around the mouth.  Infants can develop pneumonia, seizures, encephalitis, or even death.


The good news is that we can prevent our kids from getting pertussis by vaccination. Infants are vaccinated at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 18 months. They then receive booster vaccines at 4 and 11 years old. We can also limit our infants’ exposures to pertussis by making sure that our family members are vaccinated. Children and adults are vaccinated against pertussis as children, but over time our immunity wanes. The Advisory Committee of the CDC recently met and recommended that pregnant mothers be given the Tdap vaccine between 27-36 weeks gestation as reported in AAP Smartbriefs and CNN Health. Mothers of newborns have previously been offered the pertussis vaccine after delivery at the hospital. It has been reported that by vaccinating a mother during pregnancy, maternal antibodies to pertussis are transferred to the newborn to protect them until their vaccination. It is important that we make sure that everyone is vaccinated who will be around a newborn with a Tdap shot to provide a cocoon of immunity around the newborn.

When to call your pediatrician…

It is important to call your pediatrician if your child develops a frequent or severe cough, especially if they have any blue color change, vomiting after cough, or acts tired or sick.