We’re all aware of the importance of tetanus shots, and now there’s a vaccine to prevent tetanus while also fighting other serious ailments at the same time.
Multiple health organizations are now recommending that adults have a one-time dose of something called Tdap. This is a combination vaccine that contains tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) all recommend this vaccine.
As usual, something prompts me to think about certain topics. Why this one? Ok, I admit it…I was not paying attention and I grabbed some papers with a partially closed staple in them. As it ripped through the tip of my finger, I knew I would need to recall when my last tetanus vaccine was. And, as a healthcare worker, I did know that I had not yet had a Tdap. So, my weekend included a sore arm….
There is no vaccine for just pertussis alone, and this ailment, like tetanus, is one I’m sure we’d all like to avoid. Pertussis is known as the “whooping cough,” and this bacterial infection is passed from person to person. It’s generally not serious in adolescents and adults, but can be very dangerous to young children.
The symptoms of whooping cough come in 3 stages:
• The first begins much like your common cold – runny nose, sneezing and coughing. The cough will last 1-2 weeks, getting worse instead of better.
• In the second stage, you will have uncontrollable coughing spells, frequently vomiting after coughing, and you will emit a “whopping” noise when you breathe in. Patients can even stop breathing or turn blue in the face from lack of air during these cough episodes. This can last 2-6 weeks.
• During the last stage, the symptoms actually start to lessen. The coughing spells decrease in frequency and severity.
The course of this illness can be 6-10 weeks. Adults, teens and vaccinated children will generally have milder symptoms, like those of bronchitis.
Pertussis is spread by the “spray” of our secretions in the air, when we sneeze, cough or talk. We can also get it from sharing our cups and silverware. Initial symptoms will appear in 7-10 days after the exposure, and we will be contagious from 2 weeks prior to the start of the cough until 3 weeks after the cough starts, or until we have completed a 5-day course of appropriate antibiotic therapy.
Here is an information sheet on Tdap from the CDC. It discusses who should and shouldn’t have the vaccine, as well as the side effects.
If you are due for a tetanus vaccine and have not had your Tdap, consider receiving one at your nearest U.S. HealthWorks center. Then the only whooping you will hear is out of glee because you know you’ll be pertussis and tetanus-free.
– Alesia J. Wagner, Regional Medical Director, Southern California