Preventing Pertussis

You can prevent pertussis by being immunized through a vaccine. The pertussis vaccine is part of the combination "TDaP vaccine" that is given in five doses beginning in infancy through age 4-6, but it does not last forever. Since immunity wears off by adolescence, children aged 11-12 then receive a booster shot to continue their immunity to the bacteria. (Tetanus and diptheria vaccine also are included in the TDaP shot.) An adult form of the vaccine is sometimes given to adults up to age 65. (See Pertussis Resources for more information about immunization schedules

Be sure your children's immunizations are up-to-date.

  • Children generally receive 5 doses of the TDaP vaccine by the time they are 6 years of age.
  • Adolescents usually receive a booster shot at age 11-12.

Pertussis is most contagious during the first two to three weeks of the infection, which is often before severe coughing fits and other symptoms specific to pertussis begin.

  • If you have pertussis, you should not be in school, at work, or in any other public place, so that you prevent others from catching pertussis.
  • Avoid exposing very young children who haven't yet been vaccinated  to someone who may be sick with pertussis.

Because pertussis is highly contagious, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics for everyone in a family or household if one person is diagnosed with the disease. This is intended to help prevent the spread of pertussis before severe symptoms appear.