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The best way to prevent pertussis (whooping cough) among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. Also, keep infants and other people at high risk for pertussis complications away from infected people.

In the United States, the recommended pertussis vaccine for infants and children is called DTaP. This is a combination vaccine that protects against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

Doctor with patient.

The childhood whooping cough vaccine (DTaP) protects most children for at least 5 years. Read more about a recent study looking into this [1 page].

Vaccine protection for these three diseases fades with time. Before 2005, the only booster available contained protection against tetanus and diphtheria (called Td), and was recommended for teens and adults every 10 years. Today there is a booster for preteens, teens and adults that contains protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap).

The easiest thing for adults to do is to get Tdap instead of their next regular tetanus booster-that Td shot that they were supposed to get every 10 years. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark, so it is a good idea for adults to talk to a healthcare provider about what is best for their specific situation.

Being up-to-date with pertussis vaccines is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants.

Click on the tabs below for specific vaccine related information.

For detailed information on pertussis vaccines, visit the Pertussis Vaccine Site.

  • Adults
  • Parents-to-be
  • Infants &
  • Preteens &
  • Travelers
  • Healthcare

Adults holding babyVaccine protection for pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria fades with time, so all adults 19 and older who have not previously received a Tdap vaccine need a booster shot. Experts recommend adults receive a tetanus and diphtheria booster (called Td) every 10 years and substitute a Tdap vaccine for one of the boosters. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark. Being up-to-date with one dose of Tdap is especially important for adults who are around infants. Remember that even fully-vaccinated adults can get pertussis. If you are caring for infants, check with your healthcare provider about what's best for your situation.


Resources for Adults

Pregnant WomanPertussis can cause serious illness, hospitalization and death — especially in infants who are too young to be well-protected by vaccines. You can help protect your baby from pertussis by:

  • Getting a pertussis vaccine (Tdap) if you are pregnant
  • Encouraging those around your baby be up-to-date with pertussis vaccination
  • Making sure your baby gets his pertussis vaccines on time

Learn more about how each of these steps offers protection to your baby.


Resources for Parents-to-be

The best way to protect infants and children from pertussis is to make sure they get vaccinated. The recommended pertussis vaccine for infants and children is called DTaP. This is a combination vaccine that protects children against 3 diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. For maximum protection against pertussis, children need 5 DTaP shots.

Little girl.Parents can also help protect infants by keeping them away as much as possible from anyone who has cold symptoms or is coughing. To provide protection before infants are old enough to receive DTaP vaccines, pregnant women should get the Tdap shot. See the “Parents-to-be” tab for more information.

For 7-10 year olds who are not fully immunized with DTaP, a dose of Tdap should be received.



Resources for Infants & Children


adolescent girlsVaccine protection for pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria can fade with time. Preteens going to the doctor for their regular check-up at age 11 or 12 years should get a dose of Tdap, a booster for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Teens who did not get this vaccine at the 11- or 12-year-old check-up should get vaccinated at their next visit. Being up-to-date with Tdap is especially important for preteens and teens who will be around infants.


Resources for Adolescents


AirplanePertussis commonly occurs worldwide, even in countries with high vaccination rates. Infants too young to be protected with the first 3 DTaP shots are at greater risk of severe pertussis when traveling.

Travelers should be up-to-date with recommended pertussis vaccinations before departure.


Resource for Travelers

Spread of pertussis has been documented in various healthcare settings, including hospitals and emergency departments serving pediatric and adult patients, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.

ClinicianHealthcare personnel who have direct patient contact should receive a single dose of Tdap if they have not previously received one. Tdap can be administered regardless of interval since the previous Td dose. However, shorter intervals between Tdap and last Td may increase the risk of mild local reactogenicity. Healthcare personnel include but are not limited to physicians, other primary care providers, nurses, aides, respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, students (e.g., medical, nursing, and pharmaceutical), dentists, social workers, chaplains, volunteers, and dietary and clerical workers.

Tdap vaccination can protect healthcare personnel against pertussis and help prevent them from spreading it to their patients. Priority should be given to vaccinating healthcare personnel who have direct contact with babies younger than 12 months of age.


Resources for Healthcare Personnel


If your doctor confirms that you have pertussis, your body will have a natural defense (immunity) to future infections. Some observational studies suggest that pertussis infection can provide immunity for 4-20 years. Since this immunity fades and does not offer lifelong protection, routine vaccines are recommended.


If you or a member of your household has been diagnosed with pertussis, your doctor or local health department may recommend preventive antibiotics (medications that can help prevent diseases caused by bacteria) to other members of the household to prevent spread of disease. Additionally, other people outside the household who have been exposed to a person with pertussis may be given preventive antibiotics depending on whether or not they are considered at risk for serious disease or if they have routine contact with someone that is considered at high risk of serious disease.

Infants younger than 12 months old are most at risk for serious complications from pertussis. Although pregnant women are not at increased risk for serious disease, those in their third trimester would be considered at increased risk since they could in turn expose their newborn to pertussis. You should discuss whether or not you need preventative antibiotics with your doctor, especially if there is an infant or pregnant woman in your household or you plan to have contact with an infant or pregnant woman.


Like many respiratory illnesses, pertussis is spread by coughing and sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Practicing good hygiene is always recommended to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put your used tissue in the waste basket.
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.


Wendelboe AM, Van Rie A, Salmaso S, Englund JA. Duration of immunity against pertussis after natural infection or vaccination. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2005;24(5 Suppl):S58-61.

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