Protecting yourself and your baby from whooping cough
What is the Tdap vaccine?
The Tdap vaccine offers protection from three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). It's the first booster designed to protect adults and adolescents from whooping cough, a very contagious disease that they're at risk for themselves and can pass on to babies.
Whooping cough can result in months of coughing, cracked ribs from severe coughing spells, pneumonia, and other complications. While you probably got vaccinated against this disease as a child, the immunity wanes over time.
Whooping cough can be life-threatening for babies who are less than a year old. And they're most likely to catch the disease from household members and other close contacts who might not even know they're infected. So vaccinating adults and adolescents against whooping cough also helps protect babies from the disease.
What's more, if you get the Tdap vaccine before or during pregnancy, your baby is likely to get antibodies from you during pregnancy that will offer her some protection as a newborn, when she's still too young to be vaccinated herself.
How common is whooping cough?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks whooping cough outbreaks. Since 2004, an average of 3,055 infant pertussis cases and more than 19 deaths have been reported each year. The majority of the cases, hospitalizations, and deaths occur in infants under 2 months old, who are too young to be vaccinated.
And studies indicate that whooping cough is actually much more prevalent than reported cases show, particularly in adults and adolescents. The CDC estimates that about 600,000 adults get the disease each year.
Who is the Tdap vaccine recommended for?
The CDC recommends a one-time dose of Tdap for kids age 11 to 18 who have completed the DTap vaccine series and adults 19 to 64. (If you plan to be around babies soon, it's best to get it at least two weeks beforehand.) Adults age 65 and older should also get a dose of Tdap if they plan to be around babies.
If you've had a tetanus booster shot in the last few years, you may have already received the Tdap vaccine. (If you're not sure, check with your primary healthcare provider.)
A word of warning: Anyone who's ever had a dangerous reaction to a tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis vaccine should not get Tdap.
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