At some point in our lives, most of us have had an encounter with a rusty nail or been bit or scratched by an animal. If it was severe enough, you were probably counseled by a friend, parent, teacher or coworker to “go get a tetanus shot.”
At the doctor’s office, what you were probably told (but what may not have totally registered) is that if you were between the ages of 10 and 64, the vaccine was not just a tetanus booster but instead the Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis). The Tdap does double duty of also protecting you from pertussis or whooping cough, as well as diphtheria. And that’s a good thing—especially if you’ve never had a Tdap—and not just for you.
The DTaP (same disease protection as Tdap, different strengths) is given in a series of shots to infants. But here’s the thing: it starts to wear off after 10 years. Now, by that age your antibodies have built up to where catching pertussis probably won’t put you in the Intensive Care Unit. However if you become infected, it may put an unvaccinated infant’s life in serious jeopardy because she is still building up antibodies.
The disease spreads through the air in droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and can also linger on hands. Children younger than age 2 probably aren’t fully vaccinated—even if they are on an immunization schedule. If they are exposed to pertussis, the infection can hit them hard.
You may think, as many do, that you had your vaccinations as a kid and you are set for life…besides the annual flu and the rare tetanus. This may indeed be the case. But, I can tell you firsthand when I see patients like Colbi Jayne (hear her story by watching the video below) come to our hospital, I can’t help but ask you to help take care of your friends and neighbors. Summer is the season we see the most pertussis outbreaks. And besides, that shot, it only hurts for a minute…