Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory illness that’s making a comeback in the United States.

Learn what you can do to protect yourself and others.


The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated. CDC recommends whooping cough vaccination for everyone.

Learn who should get which whooping cough vaccines and when.

Preventive antibiotics

Preventive antibiotics, also known as postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis (PEP), are medicines given to someone that has been exposed to a harmful bacteria in order to help prevent them from getting sick.

Doctors and local health departments generally determine who should get preventive antibiotics. For people exposed to whooping cough, CDC recommends preventive antibiotics only if they:

  • Live with the person who has been diagnosed with whooping cough.
  • Are at increased risk for serious disease (e.g., babies, people with certain medical conditions) or will have close contact with someone who is at increased risk for serious disease (e.g., women in their third trimester of pregnancy, people who work with or care for high risk individuals).

If you’ve been exposed to the bacteria that cause whooping cough, talk to your doctor about whether you need preventive antibiotics. This is especially important if there is a baby or pregnant woman in your household or you plan to have contact with a baby or pregnant woman.

Learn more about postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis.

Good hygiene

CDC recommends practicing good hygiene to prevent the spread of the bacteria that cause whooping cough and other respiratory illnesses.

Cover your cough or sneeze

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Throw away used tissues in the waste basket right away.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow if you don’t have a tissue. Never cough into your hands because you can spread germs this way.

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Temporary immunity after getting sick

People who have had whooping cough have some natural immunity (protection) to future whooping cough infections. Getting sick with whooping cough doesn’t provide lifelong protection.

CDC recommends whooping cough vaccination even if you have had the disease before, since natural immunity fades and does not offer lifelong protection.