Whooping cough in children: symptoms, risks and vaccine

Fonte: shutterstock

Whooping cough in children

Whooping cough is a highly infectious disease that if it affects children, especially those under the age of one, can be very dangerous. Let's see together how it manifests itself, what are the risks and how the vaccine against the whooping cough in children.

In this article

  • What is whooping cough
  • How to recognize it and what are the symptoms of whooping cough in children
  • How frequent is the disease
  • The risks of whooping cough
  • The pertussis vaccine
  • When to get vaccinated
  • The side effects
  • How can infants under three months old who cannot yet be vaccinated be protected?
  • COVID vaccine and pertussis vaccine

What is whooping cough

Whooping cough, also known as "canine cough", is an infectious disease caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. It affects all ages but mainly affects children, especially under five years old. It is very contagious and is transmitted by airborne contagion through droplets of saliva emitted by coughing, sneezing or simply speaking.

If no complications appear, whooping cough heals in about a couple of months.

How to recognize it and what are the symptoms of whooping cough in children

  1. Initially it manifests itself with hoarseness, cold and night cough that prevents rest. There is generally no fever.
  2. After about two weeks, the cough becomes convulsive and stubborn, hindering breathing and swallowing. After an attack of whooping cough, which can be up to 15 strokes, a deep, noisy inhalation follows. This sound, which resembles a scream, is due to the catarrhal obstruction of the airways. Sometimes vomiting appears.
  3. Still after two weeks the convalescence phase, in which the coughing fits subside and the child recovers gradually.

How frequent is the disease

Until the 13s, there were about 90 cases of pertussis per year in Del Paese. The spread of vaccination has reduced the number of cases and today XNUMX% of cases are registered in populations where vaccination is not carried out

The risks of whooping cough

Whooping cough is a very dangerous disease in children under one year old because it can cause serious complications with disabling and permanent damage. On average, hospitalization is required in 20% of pertussis cases.

Among the most frequent complications there can be: nosebleeds caused by coughs, otitis media, pneumonia and bronchopneumonia (one case out of 20), encephalopathies (one-two cases out of 1000). Mortality is one to two in 1000 cases, almost always in children under one year of age, and is caused by pneumonia or encephalitis.

The pertussis vaccine

Il pertussis vaccine it has existed since the XNUMXs in the form of a cellular vaccine, ie containing the whole bacterium. In the XNUMXs, the acellular vaccine was introduced, which contains only a few "pieces" of the bacterium responsible for the disease, that is, those needed to awaken the immune system.

It usually comes combined with that against diphtheria and tetanus, or in the hexavalent preparation which covers as many as six different infections.

The vaccine is about 85% effective, which further decreases over time, so the required reminders are necessary. Even when coverage is not complete, pertussis in vaccinated people is milder than in unvaccinated people.

Read also: Compulsory and voluntary vaccinations

When to get vaccinated

All children under one year of life can be vaccinated: there are three appointments for three doses.

The first, second and third doses are given 6-8 weeks apart, to which a last booster dose is added around 2 years of age.

Two successive recalls are made: at six years and at 14 years. A diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis booster is recommended every 10 years in adults.

The vaccine is contraindicated for those who are severely allergic to one of the components or who have an acute, severe or moderate disease. In the case of neurological disorders, we proceed only if these are stabilized and if the cause of the same is known.

The side effects

Half of the children have mild reactions (fever or local redness) which disappear within 48 hours. In the case of the combined diphtheria-tetate-pertussis vaccine, the dose that causes the most side effects is the one given at six years.

Febrile convulsions occur in one or two cases in every 10 thousand, in one case in a million anaphylactic shock. However, it must be said that vaccination centers are generally fully equipped to cope with the emergency, should it occur.

Some groups opposed to vaccination have linked the pertussis vaccine with SIDS (the so-called cot death) and the onset of epilepsy. This was referring to the old cellular vaccine and not the acellular one currently in use, but even then experts have found no evidence of a link between such events, although many sites report it as established.

How can infants under three months old who cannot yet be vaccinated be protected?

The strategy that all international bodies, from the World Health Organization to the Global Pertussis Initiative, believe to be most effective in protecting the very young who have not yet been vaccinated is the vaccination of expectant mothers in the last trimester of pregnancy. By vaccinating, the mother not only protects herself, but passes her protection to her newborn. This strategy is already implemented in some countries (Argentina, Israel, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States).

COVID vaccine and pertussis vaccine

How to organize the vaccination booster deadlines for adolescents or pregnant women who want to get the vaccine against pertussis, in light of the appointment with the administration of the vaccine against COVID?

Even if the current evidence shows that it is possible and safe to do several vaccines at the same time, to have greater safety on the efficacy, in Del Paese a precaution is recommended. two week interval between vaccination against COVID-19 and other vaccinations.


  • Institutional portal Vaccinarsi ISS Vaccinarsi.org;
  • Epicentro website, from the Higher Institute of Health
  • Coadministration of COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines - CDC

  • vaccinations for children
  • whooping cough
  • first year
add a comment of Whooping cough in children: symptoms, risks and vaccine
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.