How can pertussis be prevented?

Getting vaccinated against pertussis is the best way to prevent it. All children should be given the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP) vaccine. This is a combination vaccine that also protects them against diphtheria and tetanus. It is safe and effective.

Children should receive 5 injections of the DTaP vaccine, according to the following vaccination schedule.

  • First dose –2 months of age
  • Second dose –4 months
  • Third dose—6 months
  • Fourth dose--15 to 18 months
  • Fifth dose--4 to 6 years

Side effects, if present, usually are mild, such as redness, swelling or pain at the site of the injection. Fever and vomiting may occur. About 1 child in every 4 who are vaccinated will experience side effects.

In rare cases, a high fever (above 105 degrees F) or seizures may occur.

A booster vaccine is recommended for adults because they are the most likely source of pertussis infection in infants.

Adults ages 19 to 64 years should receive a one-time pertussis booster vaccine called Tdap, because adults are the most likely source of infection in infants. Tdap also is a combination vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

Adults over age 64 years should also receive a booster vaccine if they will come into close contact with infants younger than 12 months old. Pregnant women should receive a Tdap injection during the third trimester (between the 27th and 36th week) of their pregnancies. It is necessary for them to have a Tdap injection during each pregnancy.

The vaccine helps to provide babies with short-term protection against whooping cough and also may protect them against serious complications associated with the infection. If you are pregnant, you should also make sure that family members and caregivers have been vaccinated against pertussis.

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