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Diphtheria Tetanus and Pertussis Vaccination


What is diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccination? DTaP, Tdap, and Td are the names of injections given to protect you from diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Infants and small children usually get the shots in their thigh. Older children and adults usually get the shots in their upper arm. These vaccines protect against:

  • Diphtheria: This is a severe bacterial infection that is spread from person to person. The infection causes a thick covering in the back of your mouth and throat. The covering may block your airway, cause lung problems, and lead to muscle paralysis. Diphtheria may also lead to heart failure and death.

  • Tetanus: This is a severe infection caused by bacteria found in dirt, manure, and dust. The germ enters the body through open skin, such as cuts and wounds. Tetanus may cause painful muscle spasms. Lockjaw may also occur, which makes it hard to open your mouth or swallow. Spasms may cause breathing problems, bone fractures, or death.

  • Pertussis: Pertussis (whooping cough) is easily spread from person to person. Pertussis causes periods of rapid coughing with no break. This makes it hard to eat, drink, or breathe. The coughing spells may cause vomiting, dizziness, or broken ribs. Pertussis may lead to lung problems, convulsions (uncontrolled shaking), brain damage, and death.

Who should get the DTaP vaccine? The DTaP vaccine is only given to children younger than 7 years. Your child should receive 5 doses of the DTaP vaccine between 6 weeks and 6 years:

  • The first dose at 2 months old

  • A dose at 4 months old

  • A dose at 6 months old

  • A booster shot at 15 to 18 months old

  • Another booster shot at 4 to 6 years old

What if my child misses a scheduled shot of the DTaP vaccine? If your child misses a scheduled DTaP shot, the next dose should be given as soon as possible. There is no need to give extra doses or start the entire series of the vaccine over.

Who should get the Tdap vaccine?

  • Children 7 to 10 years: Your child should get 1 dose of the Tdap vaccine if he has not been fully vaccinated with DTaP.

  • Adolescents 11 to 18 years: The best age to get the Tdap vaccine is 11 to 12 years. Your child should get 1 dose of the Tdap vaccine if:

    • He received the DTaP shots as a young child and has not had a Td booster.

    • He is between 11 and 18 years old and has never had a Tdap shot.

    • He received a Td booster. Your child should get the Tdap shot about 5 years after she received the Td booster. If your child is at increased risk for pertussis, her healthcare provider may give her the Tdap shot sooner.

    • She is pregnant and has not received the Tdap vaccine. A Tdap shot should be given at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. The shot can also be given immediately after she gives birth.

  • Adults 19 years and older: You should receive 1 dose of Tdap if:

    • Your vaccine history is incomplete.

    • You completed the DTaP series but have not had a Td booster.

    • You are a healthcare worker.

    • You have close contact with a baby younger than 12 months old. The Tdap vaccine may be given within 2 weeks of the close contact.

    • You have a severe cut or burn.

    • You are 27 to 36 weeks along in your pregnancy.

    • You have just had a baby.

Who should get the Td vaccine? The Td vaccine is a booster shot that may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years. It may also be given if:

  • You have an open would and it has been at least 5 years since your last Td vaccine.

  • You are pregnant and have received 1 dose of the Tdap vaccine.

What if the vaccine history is not known? Adults and children 7 years or older should receive a series of 3 shots. The series is 1 Tdap shot and 2 Td shots. The second shot should be given at least 4 weeks after the first. The third shot should be given at least 6 months after the second.

Who should not get the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine? Do not get the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction in the past. Do not get the vaccine if you developed encephalopathy within 7 days of your last dose. If you are allergic to latex, ask your healthcare provider if you should get the vaccine.

Who should wait to get the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine? Wait to get the vaccine or tell your healthcare provider if:

  • You are sick or have a fever.

  • Your child cried for more than 3 hours within the first 2 days of getting a vaccine in the past.

  • Your child developed a high fever within 2 days after getting the vaccine in the past.

  • Your child had seizures within 3 days of getting the vaccine in the past.

  • You had low blood pressure or fainted within 2 days of getting the vaccine in the past.

  • You have a brain disorder, epilepsy, or muscle spasms that are not controlled with medicine.

  • You or your child developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of getting a tetanus vaccine.

  • You or your child had an Arthus allergic reaction after your last diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine. If you had this reaction, you should get the vaccine no more than every 10 years.

What are the risks of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine? The area where the vaccine was given may be red, tender, or swollen. You may have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. This can be life-threatening.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever or chills.

  • You have a headache, body aches, or joint pain.

  • You have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • You have increased pain, redness, or swelling around the area where the shot was given.

  • You have questions or concerns about the vaccine.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your face is red or swollen.

  • You have hives that spread over your body.

  • You feel weak or dizzy.

  • Your mouth and throat are swollen.

  • You are wheezing or have trouble breathing.

  • You have chest pain or your heart is beating faster than normal.

  • You feel like you are going to faint.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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