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Prevention

Vaccines

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

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

Graphic depicting young children, preteens, pregnant women, and adults, all of which need whooping cough vaccines.

This graphic highlights CDC’s whooping cough vaccination recommendations for young children, preteens, pregnant women, and adults.

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

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

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

Learn more about how pertussis vaccines can help protect the following groups of people:

Infection

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

Antibiotics

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 help prevent the spread of disease. Additionally, they may recommend preventive antibiotics to some other people outside the household who have been exposed to a person with pertussis, including

  • People at risk for serious disease
  • People who have routine contact with someone that is considered at high risk of serious disease

Babies younger than 1 year old are most at risk for serious complications from pertussis. Pregnant women are not at increased risk for serious disease. However, experts consider those in their third trimester to be 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. This is especially important if there is a baby or pregnant woman in your household. It is also important if you plan to have contact with a baby or pregnant woman.

Hygiene

Like many respiratory illnesses, pertussis spreads by coughing and sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the bacteria. CDC recommends practicing good hygiene to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. To practice good hygiene you should:

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

Reference

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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