What are tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis?

  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called “whooping cough”) are infections caused by different types of bacteria.

  • Tetanus enters the body through cuts and wounds and can cause lockjaw and painful stiffening of the muscles

  • Diphtheria and pertussis can be spread from person to person. Diphtheria can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis or death. Pertussis, also known as “whooping cough,” can cause uncontrollable, violent coughing, which makes it hard to breathe, eat or drink and can lead to severe illness or death.

Why should someone get the Tdap or DTaP vaccine?

  • The Tdap and DTaP vaccines help protect you from diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Who SHOULD get the Tdap and DTaP vaccines?

  • Everyone should get Tdap or DTaP vaccination, with rare exceptions.

  • Babies and children younger than 7 years old receive DTaP or DT, while older children and adults receive Tdap or Td.

Who should NOT get the Tdap or DTaP vaccines?

  • Anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of one of these vaccines should not get another dose.

  • Anyone with a severe allergy to any ingredient of any of these vaccines. Your healthcare provider can tell you about the vaccines’ ingredients.

  • Anyone who had a previous severe reaction to similar vaccines.

Who should talk with their healthcare provider before getting the Tdap or DTaP vaccine?

  • Anyone who has had severe pain or swelling after any vaccine containing tetanus or diphtheria.

  • Anyone who has ever had a condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralyzing illness, also called GBS).

  • Anyone who has seizures or another nervous system problem.

  • Some children should not get another dose of DTaP, but may get DT. Talk with your child’s healthcare professional if your child had a seizure or collapsed after a dose of DTaP, cried non-stop for three hours or more after a dose of DTaP, or had a fever over 105°F after a dose of DTaP.

For up-to-date information about the Tdap and DTaP vaccines, go to the CDC’s website. You can also talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the Tdap and DTaP vaccines and your personal health. See more information about the Tdap vaccine. See more information about the DTaP vaccine. See more information about the Td vaccine.

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