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More than 200,000 children used to get whooping cough each year. Thanks to vaccines, that number has dropped significantly.
There are 2 vaccines that include protection against whooping cough:
Whooping cough spreads very easily from person to person. Because it usually starts off like a cold, people who have whooping cough may not know they’re spreading it. And it can be deadly, especially for newborn babies.
Babies who get whooping cough can have dangerous complications, like pneumonia (lung infection), convulsions (uncontrolled shaking), and brain damage. That’s why it’s especially important for pregnant women to get vaccinated — and that people who spend time with babies are up to date on their whooping cough vaccine.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent whooping cough.
Whooping cough is caused by a kind of bacteria. It’s named for the “whoop” sound people can make after coughing fits. Learn what whooping cough sounds like.
The early symptoms of whooping cough include:
Whooping cough can last for up to 10 weeks or more. Later symptoms can include:
Complications from whooping cough can include incontinence (loss of bladder control) and broken ribs from coughing.
Whooping cough can spread when a person who has it:
Whooping cough vaccines are recommended for babies, children, teens, adults, and pregnant women.
Young children need the DTaP vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule. Young children need a dose of the vaccine at:
Older children need 1 booster shot of the Tdap vaccine at age 11 or 12 as part of their routine vaccine schedule.
If your child misses the booster shot, talk with your child’s doctor about scheduling a catch-up shot.
If you missed the Tdap booster as a teen, you’ll need to get a Tdap booster to make sure you have protection from whooping cough.
Pregnant women need 1 booster shot of the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.
Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from whooping cough.
You should not get a whooping cough vaccine if you:
Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
If you’re sick, you may need to wait until you’re feeling better to get a whooping cough vaccine.
Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:
It’s very rare, but the DTaP vaccine can also cause the following symptoms in children:
Like any medicine, there's a very small chance that whooping cough vaccines could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting a whooping cough vaccine is much safer than getting whooping cough. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines. Read the VISs for vaccines that protect against whooping cough:
Last reviewed: January 2018