• Outbreaks of whooping cough among adolescents have increased dramatically. The number of

    reported cases in 2004 was more than 10 times what it was just 10 years earlier.

    1,2 The good news

    is that there are booster vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough approved by the

    US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    What is whooping cough?

    Whooping cough, also known by the medical name

    “pertussis”, is a serious disease. It starts out like a cold, but

    can become much worse. It causes severe coughing fits and

    the cough can last, on average, 106 days.

    3 Whooping

    cough spreads easily and is on the rise in the US, especially

    among preteens and teens.


    What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

    At first, symptoms are like the common cold—mild fever,

    runny nose, and a cough. Then the cough becomes more

    severe, causing coughing fits that may be followed by

    vomiting. Whooping cough can also lead to seizures

    or pneumonia.


    How common is whooping cough?

    In 2004, there were 25,827 reported cases in the US, with

    the largest number of cases in preteens and teens.

    2 But

    since whooping cough is often mistaken for other illnesses,

    there were likely many more cases. It is estimated that over

    1 million people in the US get whooping cough every year.


    Are my preteen and teenage children at risk?

    Simply put, the answer is yes. While most babies and young

    children get whooping cough shots, this protection begins to

    wear off after 5 to 10 years.

    4 So your children may now be

    at risk for whooping cough.

    How do you catch whooping cough?

    Whooping cough is spread by airborne droplets when an

    infected person coughs or sneezes. Whooping cough is very

    contagious. It spreads especially easily in school settings,

    where infected children can come in contact with lots of

    other kids. In fact, whooping cough outbreaks often start in

    middle and high schools.

    4 Adolescents then spread the

    disease to family members and others in the community.

    How can I prevent my preteens and teens from

    getting whooping cough?

    The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated.

    Experts working with the Centers for Disease Control and

    Prevention recommend that adolescents between 11 and

    18 years old should receive a single dose of booster vaccine

    known as a “Tdap” (TEE-dap) for tetanus, diphtheria, and

    whooping cough. This shot replaces the tetanus shot (Td)

    that is usually given to preteens and teens. The preferred

    age for children to get the vaccine is 11 to 12.

    4 Talk to your

    children’s doctor about it at their next visit, or call the office

    to schedule an appointment for vaccination.

    Is the whooping cough shot safe for my children?

    The safety of the approved vaccines was found to be

    comparable to the safety of the routinely given tetanus shot

    (Td). In studies, the most common side effects were soreness,

    redness, and swelling where the shot was given, headache,

    fever, tiredness, and body ache. Other side effects were

    nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or stomach pain. The

    vaccines should not be given to patients who are allergic

    to any part of the vaccine. As with any vaccine, rare

    unexpected side effects may occur and vaccination may

    not protect everyone receiving the vaccines.

    References: 1.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of

    Vaccine-Preventable Diseases.

    Atkinson WL, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. 9th ed.

    Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation; 2006:79–96.

    2. Centers for Disease Control

    and Prevention. Pertussis Surveillance Report 2004 (Final data). Issued August 12, 2005.


    Lee GM, Lett S, Schauer S, et al. Societal costs and morbidity of pertussis in adolescents

    and adults.

    Clin Infect Dis. 2004;39:1572–1580. 4. Centers for Disease Control and

    Prevention. Preventing tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis among adolescents: use of tetanus

    toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccines.

    MMWR. 2006;55:1–43.


    Strebel P, Nordin J, Edwards K, et al. Population-based incidence of pertussis among

    adolescents and adults, Minnesota, 1995-1996.

    J Infect Dis. 2001;183:1353–1359.


    Purdy KW, Hay JW, Botteman MF, Ward JI. Evaluation of strategies for use of acellular

    pertussis vaccine in adolescents and adults: a cost-benefit analysis.

    Clin Infect Dis.