A number of children in the Milwaukee metro area recently have been diagnosed with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. Whooping cough is particularly worrisome for parents of infants, because children have to be 2 months old to receive the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection. Although it first seems like a regular cold, whooping cough can turn more serious. It causes coughing so bad that it’s hard for kids to eat, drink or breathe. The coughing can last for weeks. In some cases, kids also develop pneumonia, seizures, and in severe cases, brain damage and death.
It’s easy to spread whooping cough and there is no treatment. Fortunately, it’s also very easy to prevent it.

The DTaP vaccine works very well, but the key is to get all five doses and a booster. Children should get one dose at each of the following ages:

  • 2 months.
  • 4 months.
  • 6 months.
  • 15 to 18 months.
  • 4 to 6 years.

Older children, adolescents and adults still need protection from whooping cough. A booster shot called Tdap is recommended when kids are 11 to 12 years of age and then every 10 years. It also is recommended for adults who care for infants. The vaccine is safe and does not cause autism.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Children’s Medical Group track patient immunization data. A recent review shows that for children younger than 25 months, 22 percent of those seen in our specialty clinics and 18 percent of those seen in our primary care practices were not completely immunized for whooping cough. We’re working to improve these numbers.

Be sure to check vaccine records for you and your children. If you’re not sure whether you or your children are fully protected, contact your physician. If you or your kids haven’t been immunized, your doctor or local health department can help.

Looking for a pediatrician? Children’s Medical Group has 16 clinics throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Find a doctor near you.

~ Smriti Khare, MD, president, Children’s Medical Group

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