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Why you need a whooping cough vaccine

Many parents these days think whooping cough (pertussis) has gone the way of measles and mumps: pretty much evaporated from North America, since children get inoculations that protect them from these scary and sometimes devastating illnesses.

But whooping cough's making a big, bad comeback, thanks to parents who fear vaccinations - and adults who, though they've been vaccinated in the past, don't realize that the pertussis vaccine wears off after three to five years.

In adults, the illness can sometimes be mild. In infants, it's dangerous and often deadly. That's why many pediatricians are now advising adults not to visit babies - particularly newborns - until they get their vaccines updated.

Babies are immunized against pertussis in a series of four injections that begin at 2 months. According to a recent article posted on WebMD, "Until infants receive the third dose of pertussis vaccine at age 6 months, they're particularly vulnerable to serious illness."

So before paying that adorable newborn a visit, do that baby a favor: Ask your physician if your pertussis vaccine is up-to-date. If not, do what I - and every adult member of my family just did. Go get a shot.

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