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Pertussis/ Whooping Cough and What You Need to Know

June 16, 2014


Knowing what to look for with a cough is important. Ensuring your child does not have something worse than a common cough is important in ruling out more serious infections like Pertussis, commonly called Whooping Cough.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about pertussis taken from the website Prevent that will help you decipher the infection.


What is pertussis (whooping cough) and why is it so dangerous for babies?

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is caused by bacteria. Pertussis can be deadly to infants. It may cause coughing fits, choking, pneumonia, brain damage, and even death. In some cases, babies cannot breathe or cough. Pertussis can cause serious illness and even death because newborns and infants are too young to be fully vaccinated. It is necessary for mothers, family members, close friends, and caregivers to be vaccinated against pertussis so they do not get infected and transmit the bacteria to your newborn baby.


How do I know if it’s pertussis?

Pertussis is an infectious disease that starts like a cold, with a runny nose and cough. As time passes, the cough gets worse and lasts for a long time – possibly making you gasp for air or vomit after coughing fits and coughing more at night. You may think it is a typical cough, but it could be pertussis. Your doctor may run a test to see if you have pertussis.


How would I give the disease to a baby?

Pertussis spreads through droplets when you talk, cough, and sneeze.


Why do babies need to be protected from pertussis?

Pertussis can be deadly to infants. It keeps them from breathing and eating. It may cause pneumonia, brain damage, and even death.


How do I keep from getting pertussis?

The Tdap vaccine can prevent adults from getting pertussis and giving it to babies. If you have been exposed to someone with pertussis, your doctor may give you antibiotics to prevent you from getting sick, especially if you are pregnant or in contact with babies.