All About Whooping Cough Vaccine

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Whooping cough (pertussis) is a respiratory infection that’s caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It spreads easily through coughing or sneezing. The infection often triggers severe coughing episodes that make it difficult to eat, breathe, or sleep. While it is often thought of as a childhood disease, adults also develop the infection.

Fortunately, there are vaccines available to protect against whooping cough. This article discusses who needs a vaccine, age ranges, and possible side effects.

doctor administering vaccine on child

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Do I Need the Whooping Cough Vaccine?

In the United States, vaccination against whooping cough is recommended for people of all age groups. This include babies, children, teens, adults, and pregnant people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccines to protect against whooping cough:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) for babies and children under age 7
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) for older children and adults

Information for Babies and Toddlers

Whooping cough can be particularly dangerous for babies. It can lead to complications like convulsions, pneumonia, brain damage, and even death.

Babies and toddlers should receive the DTaP vaccines as part of their routine vaccination schedule.

Information for Preteens and Teens 

Preteens and teens will need one booster shot of the Tdap vaccine as part of their routine vaccination schedule.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider if you think they’ve missed this shot.

Information for Adults

Adults who miss the Tdap dose as a teen will need a Tdap shot to protect against whooping cough. This should be followed by a booster shot every 10 years.

It's particularly important that adults who are at high-risk for complications are vaccinated. This includes people with asthma.

Only about 31% of adults in the United States report receiving their pertussis vaccine in the past 10 years.

Information for Pregnant People

Pregnant people should receive one booster shot of the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy to protect both parent and baby.

Other Ways to Prevent Whooping Cough

Vaccination is the best way to lower your chances of getting whooping cough. It's also important to wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough, and stay home when you're not feeling well to prevent transmission.

At What Age Should I Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine?

When you initially get the vaccine and how often you get it after that will depend on your age:

  • Preteens and teens: Preteens and teens should receive their Tdap booster shot at age 11 or 12.
  • Adults: Adults who were not vaccinated as teens can receive their Tdap at any time. 
  • Pregnant people: The CDC recommends that pregnant people receive their Tdap vaccine between weeks 27-36 of each pregnancy.

Information Regarding Babies and Toddlers 

Babies and toddlers will need a DTaP vaccine dose at the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15 through 18 months
  • 4 through 6 years

Treatments for Whooping Cough

Healthcare providers prescribe different antibiotics to treat whooping cough. Typically, the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome.

Who Shouldn’t Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine?

You should not receive a pertussis vaccine if you’re allergic to any ingredient in the vaccine or have had a serious reaction to diphtheria, tetanus, or whooping cough vaccines in the past.

Before you receive your whooping cough vaccine, let your healthcare provider know if you:

If you’re not feeling well, it might be a good idea to wait until you're better to get your vaccine.

Whooping Cough Vaccine Side Effects 

Some possible side effects of a whooping cough vaccine include:

  • Fever
  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Fussiness (in kids)
  • Loss of appetite

These symptoms are usually mild and will subside in a few days.

In very rare cases, the DTaP vaccine has caused high fever, seizures, and excessive crying in children.

How Effective Is the Vaccine?

According to the CDC, DTaP vaccines are about 80% to 90% effective. In the first year after getting the Tdap vaccine, it protects about 7 out of 10 people.

Summary

Whooping cough is an infection that can cause severe bouts of coughing. In serious cases, it can be life-threatening. A whooping cough vaccine greatly reduces your risk of developing the infection.

When you should get this shot depends on your age and your healthcare provider's guidance. Side effects associated with the vaccine are usually mild and go away after a couple of days.

A Word From Verywell 

Protecting yourself and your children from whooping cough is simple with a vaccine. The CDC recommends that all people receive the whooping cough vaccine at various stages throughout their lives. Talk to your healthcare provider if you or your child hasn’t received this vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does the whooping cough vaccine last?

    According to the CDC, the whooping cough vaccine typically provides good levels of protection within the first two years after getting vaccinated. Then, there tends to be a decrease in effectiveness each following year. That's why it's important to stay up-to-date on your vaccines.

  • How long after whooping cough vaccine can I see a baby?

    If you had a whooping cough vaccine, you should wait at least two weeks before seeing a baby. It takes about this long for your body to develop antibodies.

  • Do I need to get the vaccine as an adult if I got it as a child?

    Yes. The CDC recommends that adults get the vaccine starting at any age if they didn't receive it as a teen. Then, you should get a booster every 10 years.

  • Do I need to get the vaccine if I’ve had whooping cough before?

    Yes. You will still need a booster vaccination even if you've had whooping cough before. Having the infection doesn't provide permanent protection.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination.

  2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Whooping cough (pertussis).

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccination: what everyone should know.

  4. American Lung Association. Pertussis in adults.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get the whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy.

  6. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Whooping cough (pertussis).

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis frequently asked questions.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines for family and caregivers.