Note from the Nurse

Note from the Nurse: November 26, 2013

Whooping cough is a respiratory infection that can occur at any age. It is most often reported in children under the age of five but the number of adolescents and adults with it is rising due to the vaccine immunity wearing off. Many of those with partial or decreasing immunity may have milder disease and not be diagnosed with Whooping Cough.

Whooping Cough is spread by direct contact with the secretions from the nose and mouth of infected people. It may begin like a common cold with sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe. In infants and toddlers the coughing will progress to periods of uninterrupted coughing followed by a crowing or high-pitched “whoop”. Young infants are at greatest risk for complications from pneumonia, seizures or even death. The cough can last for 2 months or longer.

There is a vaccine for Whooping Cough that is started at 2 months of age and by the time they reach kindergarten age, a child will have had 5 vaccines. It is during this time of uncompleted vaccine that children are most susceptible because they have not been fully immunized. A booster shot for Whooping Cough is required for students entering 7th grade since that is the age they found the immunity was starting to decrease. Older adolescents and adults should receive a booster for Tetanus every ten years and one of those should contain the Whooping Cough vaccine also.

The single most effective control of Whooping Cough is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community. If you have not been immunized against Whooping Cough and you have contact with an infant or young child, check with your doctor about getting a booster. If you have a persistent cough you should avoid contact with young children and infants until you are cleared by your doctor.

If you or your child have a cough that does not improve after a week, check with your doctor. Whooping Cough does respond to antibiotics making it less contagious so it is important to get treatment for you and exposed family members if diagnosed.

Mary Fose,
School Nurse