New Survey Reveals Few Parents are Concerned about their Preteen or Teen Getting Whooping Cough

NEW YORK -- It's that time of year again time for parents to prepare to send their kids back to school. But, before sending kids into the classroom, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) is asking parents to take their child to his or her healthcare provider to make sure vaccinations are up to date. While most parents agree that check-ups and updated vaccinations are important for preparing their child for school, preteens and teens may be missing one or more shots that can help protect them against disease. Results from a new survey found that although 83 percent of parents of preteens and teens 10 to 18 years old agree that their children should receive a booster shot to help protect against whooping cough, a serious disease that has been on the rise, less than half say their child has actually received the booster shot.

"Many parents don't realize that some childhood vaccinations wear off over time, leaving preteens and teens at risk of getting the diseases from which they were once protected," said Amy Garcia, RN, MSN, executive director of the NASN. "Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe coughing fits that may last for up to 100 days or more and can keep an infected preteen and teen out of the classroom for more than a week on average. To help keep our kids healthy and in the classroom, we are encouraging parents to ask their child's healthcare provider or school nurse about recommended shots that can help protect them from whooping cough and other serious diseases."

Although four out of five parents of preteens and teens 10 to18 years old surveyed think that up-to-date vaccinations are very important for preparing their child for a successful school year, only about half think they are extremely or very knowledgeable about the ages their child should receive vaccinations.

The survey also found that only about one in three parents were extremely or very concerned about their preteen or teen being exposed to a contagious disease such as measles, mumps, polio or whooping cough. Less than one-third of parents surveyed were very or extremely familiar with

whooping cough. "School nurses can be a valuable part of a child's healthcare," said Garcia. "Parents should work with both their child's school nurse and healthcare provider if they have any concerns about their child's health -- at home or at school."

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a serious disease that spreads easily. It can cause severe coughing fits. The whooping sound is not common in preteens and teens. Whooping cough can lead to vomiting and pneumonia and may keep a preteens and teens away from school. The first signs of whooping cough are like the common cold, which can make it difficult to recognize. The protection from whooping cough preteens and teens received from the vaccinations they were given as infants and young children begins to wear off about five to 10 years after their last whooping cough shot -- leaving them at risk for this serious and highly contagious disease. In 2005, more than 25,000 cases of whooping cough were reported. Thirty percent of these cases occurred among preteens and teens 10 to19 years of age.

In June 2005, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that adolescents 11-18 years receive the Tdap booster shot instead of the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster. Outbreaks often start in middle and high schools where students are in close contact with one another. The best way to prevent children from catching a preventable disease such as whooping cough is to make sure they get all of the recommended shots.

Source: National Association of School Nurses (NASN)