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Potential risks of a vaccine are often what stop a parent from getting their child vaccinated. There have been many studies and discussions about side effects of various vaccinations, and this also includes the whooping cough vaccine.

Once upon a time, if the medical professionals told you to vaccinate against a disease, you went along with it without asking questions. After all, they were the experts, so why would you think they might be wrong? Nowadays however, people are questioning the value and safety of various vaccines before taking them, and this has led to a great amount of discussion and debate around the world.

Many of the ‘old diseases’ such as diphtheria, smallpox, poliomyelitis and even measles, were more or less eradicated thanks to the vaccines created. In recent years measles has reared its ugly head once more, and it is believed to be due to people refusing to have vaccines. This could be because they think the disease isn’t around anymore, so the vaccine is not necessary. Or, it could be due to the risk of side effects. Whatever the personal choice, the latest debate has been about the vaccine for Whooping Cough, also called pertussis.

What Is Whooping Cough?

Whooping cough is an illness that initially presents like a cold or flu, but then becomes more severe with some of the symptoms lasting for weeks. It can affect anyone at any age, and is particularly dangerous in babies and children, or the elderly with respiratory problems. It is a highly contagious illness, and the CDC suggests that just one infected person can spread the illness to up to 15 others.

Unfortunately, most people have no clue that they even have whooping cough, until the characteristic cough kicks in, and because it is more contagious at the beginning of the illness, people spread it unwittingly before knowing they are really sick. In babies, the risk of further complications is much higher, and it can result in pneumonia.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough

The symptoms of whooping cough are similar to other cold and ‘flu viruses, and include:

  • Nasal congestion and runny nose
  • Red eyes that are watery
  • Fever
  • Cough

The cough is not like a regular cough. It almost sounds like a deep bark or a ‘whoop’ hence the common name whooping cough. As the illness progresses the symptoms can get worse, and an accumulation of thickened mucus in the airway can cause coughing that is uncontrollable. When the cough gets to this point, it can cause the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Redness of the face
  • Blue tinge to the face
  • Extreme tiredness

With babies, they may not have much of a cough, but they can have difficulty breathing, and in some cases may stop breathing temporarily.

The Vaccine

Whooping cough vaccines were created and made available in the 1940s, and so many who are adults now, were most likely vaccinated as a child. However, the effect of the vaccine does not last forever, so it is recommended that adults get a booster shot, called Tdap. Similar to vaccines given to babies, Tdap combines vaccines for whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria.

In recent years, there have been cases where vaccinated children have gone on to develop whooping cough. This indicates that the vaccine is not as effective as it once was, and that the strength of the vaccine declines quite rapidly, allowing the infection to take hold in a seemingly healthy vaccinated child.
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