why, fearmongering ad aside, you really do need to know about pertussis

Yesterday I wrote about this kind of silly PSA about pertussis. (At least I think it’s silly– take a look at the video and see for yourself.) Whilst I went about shooting the messenger, though, I hope I didn’t come across sounding like whooping cough itself is something to roll your eyes at. 

I heard from a reader named Tasha, who enlightened me about why pertussis really is something for a mom to worry about. I’m sharing her words here because she explained it so well. 

Pertussis is a very serious illness in children, especially for babies (newborns are not able to be vaccinated for pertussis until 2 months of age and even then they are not receiving the fullest protection a vaccination can offer until they have had the follow up immunizations). Several babies have died this year alone from it and the only way to protect our littlest ones is to get our adult vaccinations – something that isn’t as widely talked about or debated upon as childhood vaccinations. The message of adult pertussis vaccinations is an important one. No child should have to suffer from something like this that is largely preventable through adult vaccination. No parent should have to bury their baby. 

As far as just saying, “If you hear this sound, get help,” it may be too late at that point. People need to know that they can have a “cold” which can turn out to be pertussis and potentially fatal (if not just miserable) for their children.

I never knew this. I never got that information from that PSA either, so thank you, Tasha, for breaking it down for me.  If you’d like more information, visit the sounds of pertussis website.

In the meantime, if you have a little one at home, ask your ob/gyn for the pertussis vaccine (or at least confirm your immunity). Mine did. I’m curious, readers- is that something that was part of your pre-natal care? 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lara Kercinik August 10, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Yep. After I delivered Jack a year and a half ago they gave me the vaccine in the hospital and explained all of the risks to the baby at that time…I too find the ad a bit jarring and unsuccessful in message.


Karen August 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I agree that that commercial is over-the-top.

Pertussis was pretty much a non-issue for a long time. But like, tuberculosis, pertussis is making a come-back. I'm a nurse in an ER. When people come in with lacerations or abrasions, tetanus boosters are recommended if it's been greater than 5 years since the last booster. We've been giving people DPTs (diptheria, pertussis and tetanus) shots instead of just TD (tetanus and diptheria) boosters. Not all of the docs are doing it, but a few are. In other words, it's not some crazy mad rush to get people vaccinated, but it is something we should spread the word about.



kaceybollrud August 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I was just going to say that the pertussis vaccine is usually coupled with the tetanus (and diptheria). Anyone giving regular care to your child should have the shot. My parents came to visit for 8 weeks after my daughter was born (we lived in Germany at the time) and I made sure they both had the vaccine since we would be living in the same house together for that long. However, I agree that the ad was over the top. I am very tired of fear tactics being used to gain our attention… it's as if no one will pay attention unless you're scaring them more than the last tv ad, tv show, newspaper/magazine article or political ad. Just the fact ma'am… that's all I really need.


Amy Wilson August 11, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I'm glad you guys are with me on the craziness of the ad…

I don't have any babies in my house anymore– and I am a by-the-book vaccinator– but I will make sure my kids are immune.

thanks for the information.


Erin August 17, 2010 at 1:40 am

I'm a teacher at an elementary school and a bit of a fanatic about germs because in 2006, at the age of 26, I had a rare type of cancer and as a result I had to have one of my lungs removed. During the spring of 2009 I developed a cough that just wouldn't go away. It went on for so long that my pulmonologist and oncologist became concerned enough to admit me to the hospital. They ran every test under the sun, including one to see if I was allergic to orange trees (I live in FL and am surrounded by orange groves). It turned out to be pertussis. I was on a picc line of antibiotics for 3 weeks after I got out of the hospital, but luckily recovered. Despite the fact that I'd been warned by all of my doctors to be extra careful about germs after my pneumenectomy, no one ever mentioned getting re-vaccinated for pertussis (or anything else). I had all of the vaccinations as a child, but not the DPT as an adult. It terrifies me to think of what could have happened to me and to know that I unknowingly exposed others to it. Luckily, I don't know of anyone close to me that caught it, but my family members have all since had the DPT shot. It seems to be much more widespread than is even being reported. Oh, one last thing…in adults pertussis does not usually have the same "whooping" sound as it does in infants. It can be presented as just a "normal" sounding cough that doesn't go away. I sounded like I had a bad case of bronchitis for about 6 weeks. I think the commercial is a good thing because it gets your attention and like I said, this pertussis recurrence seems to be much more widespread than is really being reported. In researching after my own case I found an awful lot of adults from throughout the country that have had it in the past few years. The DPT vaccine should definitely be included at the very least as part of prenatal care.


Amy Wilson August 17, 2010 at 1:48 am

Erin, thanks for posting. What a scary story. I always walk the line, as I think most mothers do, between rolling my eyes at new "dangers" we hear about, and then staying up at night worrying about them. Whichever side I pick, I then worry I'm doing the wrong thing– either by being too worked up, or too laid back.

Anyway, this seems like something to be worried about, only because as you say, there's an easy solution. Get your kids vaccinated. Get re-vaccinated as an adult. Thanks again for posting your story.


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