About whooping cough

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) affects the lungs and respiratory system and spreads very easily by coughing and sneezing.

Adults and teens may experience milder symptoms, but the illness is much more serious for infants and young children. They usually catch it from parents, grandparents, and siblings who just have a mild cough, not knowing they have whooping cough.

The dangers of whooping cough

Young babies may have trouble feeding and breathing and may turn bluish. Older babies and kids can have severe coughing spells that make it hard for them to eat, drink, breathe, and sleep. Often these children must gasp for air between coughs, making a 'whoop' sound, which is how the disease got its common name. Whooping cough can also lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.

The best way to prevent whooping cough among the most vulnerable – young babies – is for pregnant women to get the Tdap vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of their pregnancy. Although, there is no harm in getting the vaccination anytime during or immediately after pregnancy. (Source: ACIP Report).

Two vaccines protect against whooping cough. Here's what you need to know:

DTaP for children
(diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis)
Infants and children
A series of 5 shots
Beginning at 8 weeks of age
Tdap for adults
(tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)
Everyone 11 or older and during each pregnancy
One booster shot
Age 11 and 12; and teens and adults who didn't get the booster should get it right away

Ask your health care provider about your and your child's vaccination status.

If you think you or your child might have whooping cough, call your health care provider.

Find out where else to get vaccinated from the Washington State Department of Health.

One Mother's Story

When Michelle and Joe welcomed their healthy baby girl into the world, their family felt complete. Then after two weeks, their lives were turned upside down.

Whooping cough is a dangerous disease that can be catastrophic for infants. This is one family's story of their newborn's battle against whooping cough and their message to the community.

Find Out More

The Silence Whooping Cough campaign is funded and created by the Group Health Foundation, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health, Public Health - Seattle & King County, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Spokane Regional Health District, Providence Medical Group and the Washington State University College of Nursing. The campaign aims to stop the spread of whooping cough in Washington state by educating residents about the disease and how to prevent it. Please contact the Group Health Foundation at foundation.ghc@ghc.org with questions about the campaign.