Whooping cough warning

Parents, there’s a new warning out about whooping cough. Health professionals have begun to notice a rising trend of fewer children receiving DTaP vaccinations — the vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. And they believe this trend is leading to an increased risk of pertussis in kids 3 to 36 months old.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a very contagious and serious respiratory illness that can cause violent coughing, vomiting and exhaustion, and can sometimes be deadly — especially for babies.

The DTaP vaccine is typically given as a series of five separate shots. For sufficient protection against these illnesses, it is essential for children getting the vaccine to receive each scheduled dose. Unfortunately, researchers say, children are missing doses.

In fact, according to new research, children who missed three doses were 18 times more likely to be diagnosed with whooping cough. Those who missed four doses were more than 28 times more likely to acquire the illness.

So what’s the best way to protect children against this disease? Don’t miss a dose! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best protection for kids means five doses of DTaP, one at each of the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • Between 15 and 18 months
  • Between 4 and 6 years

Adults who have had the vaccine should get a booster shot every 10 years. Schedule it for each decade birthday to help you remember.

The United States currently is experiencing the largest outbreak of pertussis in 50 years. Your best defense is to get vaccinated.

A note from Soraya P. Nasraty, M.D., medical director, Norton Immediate Care Centers:

Pertussis is an infection that is easily spread from person to person and causes a severe cough. Infants are most at risk to develop the infection but older children and adults can acquire it as well. Early symptoms of pertussis are the same as the common cold; sneezing, runny nose and coughing. After a couple of weeks the cough continues to worsen while the other cold symptoms improve and may even stop completely. As the infection progresses the individual is likely to have coughing attacks severe enough to cause difficulty breathing and even vomiting. At this stage many individuals begin to make the trademark “whooping” sound after coughing that gave the infection the nick name whooping cough. Hear how the cough may sound at this link: http://www.pkids.org/diseases/pertussis.html.

Many physicians can identify pertussis by its symptoms but some may choose to perform a simple test to confirm the diagnosis. A sample of mucus can be collected on a swab from the back of the nose and throat to be tested. Once pertussis is diagnosed the physician will prescribe an antibiotic to help speed recovery and to keep the infection from being passed to others. Other members of the infected individual’s household may also be prescribed antibiotics to keep them from also becoming infected.