Whooping Cough (Pertussis)


Baby sleeping

Whooping cough (pertussis) spreads easily from person to person by coughing or sneezing. It can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until there isn’t any air in your lungs. When this happens, you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. This extreme coughing can last for weeks and cause you to throw up or crack ribs. Young babies with whooping cough may not cough at all, but can have trouble breathing. About half of babies younger than a year old who get whooping cough end up in the hospital and a few die. Vaccines are the best way to prevent whooping cough. There are two types of whooping cough vaccines—DTaP for babies and young children and Tdap for preteens, teens, pregnant women, and adults.


Key Facts

  • Only humans get whooping cough. People spread the bacteria that causes it to others by coughing or sneezing.
  • Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the number of cases of whooping cough reported in the United States.
  • About half of babies younger than 1 year old who get whooping cough end up in the hospital.
  • Two vaccines help prevent whooping cough: DTaP for children younger than 7 years old and Tdap for older children and adults, including pregnant women.
  • Pregnant women who get Tdap pass some short-term protection against whooping cough to their baby.


Grandfather holding baby
Prevent Whooping Cough

Anyone who comes in close contact with a baby should be up to date with their whooping cough vaccine.

Woman getting vaccination
Get Vaccinated

If you are pregnant, CDC recommends that you get the whooping cough shot, called Tdap, to help protect yourself and your baby.

Young mother and father with baby
Know the Signs

Whooping cough starts like the common cold, with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe a mild cough or fever. But after 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Babies may not cough at all though. Instead, they often have trouble breathing.

Prevention Tips

  • Vaccines are the best way to prevent whooping cough. Both whooping cough vaccines (DTaP and Tdap) protect against 3 diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.
  • Babies need to get a DTaP shot when they are 2, 4, and 6 months old to build a high level of protection against whooping cough.
  • CDC recommends DTaP booster shots when children are 15 through 18 months and 4 through 6 years old to help maintain protection.
  • Preteens should get Tdap at 11 or 12 years old. Teens who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen should get the shot the next time they visit their doctor.
  • Adults who have never received it should get one shot of Tdap.
  • Pregnant women should get Tdap during each pregnancy to provide short-term protection to their baby in early life.