Sunday, November 28, 2010

With whooping cough on the rise, help keep your child healthy and in school

(ARA) - Recently, several states including California, South Carolina, Texas, Ohio and Michigan have reported a rise in whooping cough cases. California health officials have declared whooping cough an epidemic in the state, and several infants have died.

Families with school-aged children should make sure their kids are up to date on recommended shots. Children who are not up to date are at risk of catching and spreading serious diseases, including whooping cough.

Whooping cough is highly contagious and spreads easily in places like schools where people are in close contact. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a respiratory infection that usually starts like a cold and then turns into a bad cough over time. Whooping cough may lead to pneumonia or rib fracture and other complications in adolescents and adults. The cough can last three months and lead to hospitalization and missed work or school days.

School nurse Deb Robarge, from the National Association of School Nurses, has seen whooping cough first-hand. Her own son developed the disease as a college student, even though he had been vaccinated as a child.

"It's terrible to see your child suffer from a disease that could have been prevented," says Robarge. "It's so important to make sure your children are up to date on their vaccines to help keep them healthy for school."

The best way to help prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Protection from the childhood whooping cough vaccine starts to wear off after approximately five to 10 years, leaving preteens, adolescents and adults at risk of catching and spreading the disease. As long as certain criteria are met, the CDC recommends that adolescents aged 11 to 18 years old receive one dose of the Tdap vaccine-a booster vaccine which helps protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

Many states have adopted Tdap vaccination requirements for school entry. Starting this year, states including Indiana, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee require that students of a certain age receive the Tdap vaccine.

Others states with Tdap vaccination requirements include: Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas and New York.

Robarge and the National Association of School Nurses offer some tips for parents to help keep children healthy and in school:

* Talk to your health care provider to ensure your preteen or teen is up to date on recommended vaccines for their age group and caught up on any missed vaccinations

* Get vaccinated, too. Not being up to date on vaccinations can put adults and their families at risk of catching and spreading serious diseases such as whooping cough

* Remember that your school nurse is a great resource for information on vaccination and other health care topics

* Encourage your child to wash his or her hands often and cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing

* Avoid close contact with people who are sick

GlaxoSmithKline has provided funding, editorial and other assistance to the National Association of School Nurses for this campaign.

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