Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: Do I need a booster vaccination against whooping cough?

Q. A friend was recently diagnosed with whooping cough. Her doctor told her that everyone, no matter what age, should be vaccinated for the disease every 10 years. Is that true?

A. Whooping cough (pertussis) is a respiratory infection that causes protracted coughing jags, accompanied by a characteristic "whooping" sound as the person struggles to catch her breath. Most Americans think that childhood vaccines have eliminated whooping cough, but it's still with us, and since the 1980s, it's been on the rise.

The symptoms begin three days to three weeks after infection with the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. At first it resembles a common cold: runny nose, low-grade fever, dry cough, and watery eyes. After one to two weeks, this is often followed by the characteristic bouts of severe coughing, and then by a recovery period with milder symptoms. Fortunately, whooping cough responds well to antibiotics.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »