Whooping Cough (Pertussis)


  • Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is a serious disease caused by bacteria. It is called whooping cough because of the “whoop” heard when a person who has it gasps for breath between coughing fits.
  • Whooping cough is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. It is very contagious.
  • Whooping cough can trigger coughing so severe that it results in vomiting and broken ribs. The cough can last for weeks or months, even when the person is no longer contagious. More than half of babies younger than one year old who get whooping cough are hospitalized because the infection can cause them to stop breathing. Young babies are the most likely to die from whooping cough or have complications such as seizures and brain damage.
  • Whooping cough is most dangerous for babies, but anyone can become seriously ill from it.
  • You can protect yourself by getting vaccinated. The best way to protect newborn babies is to vaccinate mothers during each pregnancy.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Vaccine Schedule

Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Vaccine Schedule

All infants, children, and teens should be vaccinated against whooping cough. The vaccine for infants and children is combined with diphtheria and tetanus vaccine as DTaP. The schedule is 4 doses at 2, 4, 6 and 15–18 months of age. A DTaP booster dose is recommended at 4–6 years. The adolescent and adult vaccine is called Tdap. A dose of Tdap is recommended at 11–12 years of age. A dose of Tdap is needed during the third trimester of each pregnancy to allow the mother’s immune system to give pertussis immunity to the newborn infant. Adults who have not had Tdap should get a dose of Tdap to protect themselves, then a Tdap or Td booster every 10 years thereafter.


Pertussis (Whooping Cough): Questions and Answers

A Q&A about whooping cough and vaccines, from Immunize.org.

Partner Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Find fact sheets, resources, multimedia, and more for parents and children from CDC.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Vaccines for Your Children: Vaccine (Shot) for Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Five doses of a DTaP shot for children and one Tdap shot for preteens are recommended by doctors as the best way to protect against whooping cough (pertussis). Learn more about meningococcal and vaccines from CDC. A Spanish-language version is also available.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Immunization: Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Find easy-to-understand vaccine information for yourself or your loved ones, from the Department of Health & Human Services.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
A Look at Each Vaccine: Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis Vaccines

Questions and answers about diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and vaccines from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Whooping Cough (Pertussis): What You Should Know

A whooping cough (pertussis) fact sheet and Q&A from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A Spanish-language version is also available.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Vaccines and Your Baby

Brochure for parents about childhood immunizations, explains how vaccines work, answers common questions about vaccines, and lists additional resources, from the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


Colin Durkin

Pamela and Kevin Durkin write about the tragic death of their infant, Colin, due to whooping cough (pertussis).

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Colin Enderlein

Mary-Clayton Enderlein recounts the suffering of her newborn son Colin endured during his life-and-death struggle with whooping cough (pertussis).

Read more.
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Warning: Some of the images are graphic.

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