Welcome to the Grandparents' Corner!
Every time a child is born, a grandparent is born too. As grandparents — and great-grandparents — we enter a stage of life with new roles and obligations that, once fulfilled, offer us a new template for living a meaningful later life. It is our job as grandparents to instill a "force of good" by fulfilling the varied roles grandparents play for their family — Living Ancestor, Family Historian, Hero, Buddy, Mentor, Role Model, Teacher and, perhaps the most important, Family Guardian.
As the Family Guardian, we naturally want to do everything we can to help keep our family happy and healthy, which is likely why you have come here. Together with the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, I have helped develop Grandparents' Corner for you to learn more about your important role and the many things you can do to help keep your entire family — especially your new grandbaby — protected against pertussis (also known as whooping cough). Again, welcome to Grandparents' Corner!
Dr. Arthur Kornhaber | National Sounds of Pertussis Campaign Grandparent Expert
Grandparents' Guide to Pertussis
Pertussis is a highly contagious and often serious disease, especially in young children and infants.1,2 According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), America is experiencing one of the largest outbreaks of reported pertussis cases in approximately 50 years with more than 41,000 reported cases and 18 deaths in 2012.3,4 One way for adults to help protect themselves and help stop the spread of pertussis to infants is timely vaccination with the recommended adult tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.5
Read the Grandparents' Guide to Pertussis to learn more about why your new grandbaby may be more at risk for pertussis, and how to help protect yourself and your family.
The Role of Family Guardian
Whether you are a first-time grandparent, great-grandparent, or someone who's been there before, it is important to know and understand that part of your role as Family Guardian is to help keep your family happy, healthy, and safe.
Find answers to frequently asked questions about The Role of Family Guardian
Why are today's grandparents different from previous generations of grandparents?
Curious as it may seem, today's grandparents are younger and more involved in their grandchildren's lives than generations of grandparents before.6-8 In fact, because of increasing longevity, even the numbers of great-grandparents are rapidly increasing.9 Additionally, the number of grandparents raising or helping to raise their grandchildren in the United States has grown steadily in recent decades.8 When a parent is launched into grandparenthood by their own child becoming a parent, a lot of changes take place, and grandparents find themselves asking questions many never thought about before, including the nature of their roles, boundaries, and how to communicate with their children as parents.
What role do I play as Family Guardian in the health care of my new grandchild?
Helping to promote the health and well-being of your grandchild, in partnership with parents, is a profound responsibility of grandparents. It's all about expressing a deeply-rooted instinct to protect generational continuity and assure your family's legacy, health, and happiness:
Partner with your kids: For many parents, especially first-time parents, the amount of information they receive about caring for their new child can feel overwhelming and hard to keep track of. All parents want to be fully prepared to help protect the health of their new baby, so it is important to speak with your children about what you can do to help without overstepping your boundaries. Rather than telling them what to do, learn along with them. Get educated. Accompany the parents and your grandchild to doctor's visits and check-ups, when appropriate.
Be aware of potential problems: Sharing a happy event and welcoming a new baby into the family is an exciting time for everyone and many family and friends are eager to meet the newest addition to your family. What's important to know is that during the first few months after your new grandchild is born, they are more susceptible to a number of health risks, including pertussis, since they don't begin receiving their own pertussis vaccinations until they are 2 months old and may not be protected until they have received at least 3 doses of an infant pertussis vaccine.10,11 This knowledge should be a call-to-action for parents and grandparents.
Take action: Grandparent Alert! Knowing that pertussis may be a health risk to your grandchild means it's time to take action as the Family Guardian. One way you can help protect the health of your new grandchild is by making sure you, your family, and the child's entire circle of care are vaccinated before meeting your new grandchild. Take it personally and help in the fight against pertussis by educating yourself. Below is what you need to know.
What is the risk of pertussis (whooping cough) to newborns?
Pertussis is a highly contagious and often serious disease, especially in young children and infants.1,2 In adolescents and adults it is usually presented as a severe cough that may last for weeks and even months.1,2 Infants are particularly vulnerable to pertussis because they don't begin receiving their own vaccinations until they are 2 months old and may not be protected until they have received at least 3 doses of an infant DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) vaccine.10,11
Pertussis is on the rise — according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), America is experiencing one of the largest outbreaks of reported pertussis cases in approximately 50 years with more than 41,000 reported cases and 18 deaths in 2012.3,4
Sadly, babies and young children often get pertussis from adults or family members who don't know they have the disease.12,13 This means that grandparents may actually spread the disease to their grandchildren. In fact, researchers have found that in cases where it could be determined how an infant caught pertussis, family members — including grandparents — were responsible for spreading the disease to the baby in up to 80 percent of cases.12 More specifically, parents were responsible up to 50 percent of the time.13
That's something you do not want to happen in your own family.
How can I help protect my grandchild from pertussis?
Simply put — the best way to prevent pertussis is timely vaccination with the recommended pertussis vaccines.5 By making sure parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others in close contact with infants are up-to-date on their adult tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccinations before meeting your new grandchild, they can help protect themselves and help stop the spread of the disease.
Immunity from early childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off after about 5 to 10 years, leaving adults susceptible to the disease, which they can then transmit to others.9 The CDC recommends adults and adolescents, especially those in contact with an infant, receive a single dose of Tdap vaccine.9 For the most recent recommendations, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/index.html.
Share the exciting news about your grandbaby's arrival! Mail the New Grandchild Birth Announcement to family and friends and ask them to make sure they're up-to-date on their adult Tdap vaccination before meeting the new addition to your family.
You can also use the Breathing Room Facebook app to send a brief message to family and friends in your Facebook network asking them to make the pledge to be vaccinated.
About Dr. Arthur Kornhaber
National Sounds of Pertussis Campaign Grandparent Expert
Dr. Arthur Kornhaber is a psychiatrist and expert in the area of Grandparent Communication. Not only has he authored several books on the topic, but he is also a grandparent and great-grandparent himself.
Read more about Dr. Kornhaber here.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pertussis (whooping cough): causes & transmission. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/causes-transmission.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.
- CDC. Pertussis (whooping cough): complications. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/complications.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.
- CDC. Pertussis (whooping cough): pertussis outbreak trends. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks/trends.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.
- Cherry, JD. Epidemic pertussis in 2012 - the resurgence of a vaccine-preventable disease. N Engl J Med. 2012; 367(9):785-787.
- CDC. Pertussis (whooping cough): prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/prevention.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.
- Francese, P. The grandparent economy: a study of the population, spending habits and economic impact of grandparents in the United States. http://assets.grandparents.com/legacy/binary-data/The-Grandparent-Economy-April-2009.pdf. Accessed August 6, 2013.
- Lampkin CL. Insights and spending habits of modern grandparents. http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/general/2012/Insights-and-Spending-Habits-of-Modern-Grandparents-AARP.pdf. Accessed August 6, 2013.
- United States Census Bureau. Census Bureau reports 64 percent increase in number of children living with a grandparent over last two decades. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/children/cb11-117.html. Accessed August 7, 2013.
- Kretsinger K, Broder KR, Cortese MM, et al. Preventing tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis among adults: use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and recommendation of ACIP, supported by the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), for use of Tdap among health-care personnel. MMWR. 2006;55(RR-17):1-37.
- CDC. Immunization schedules: for everyone: easy-to-read schedules. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/index.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.
- CDC. Pertussis (whooping cough): signs & symptoms. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html. Accessed August 8, 2013.
- Bisgard KM, Pascual FB, Ehresmann KR et al. Infant pertussis: who was the source? Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004;23(11):985-989.
- Wendelboe AM, Njamkempo E, Bourillon A et al. Transmission of Bordetella pertussis to young infants. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2007;26(4):293-299.