What are diphtheria, tetanus, and
Diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus
are serious diseases.
Diphtheria is a serious
bacterial disease that can infect the body in 2 areas:
Diphtheria bacteria can enter
the body through the nose and mouth. They can also enter through a break in the skin.
It is passed from person-to-person by fluids from the lungs, nose, throat, and mouth,
or droplets in the air. If you are exposed to the bacteria, it often takes 2 to 4
days for symptoms to develop. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart
failure, and even death.
Tetanus (lockjaw) is a serious
disease of the central nervous system. It is often fatal. It is caused by the toxin
of tetanus bacteria, which usually enter the body through an open wound. Tetanus
causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to
"locking" of the jaw so the person cannot open his or her mouth or swallow.
Tetanus is not contagious. It
occurs in people who have had a skin or deep tissue wound or puncture. It is also
seen in the umbilical stump of infants in underdeveloped countries. This occurs in
places where immunization to tetanus is not widespread and women may not know how to
care for the umbilical stump after the baby is born. If you are exposed to tetanus,
it may take between 2 days to 2 months to develop any symptoms. In infants, symptoms
may take between 5 days to 2 weeks to develop
Pertussis, or whooping cough,
mainly affects babies and young children. It is caused by bacteria called Bordetella
pertussis. Pertussis starts with cold-like symptoms. It then progresses to intense
fits or spells (paroxysms) of coughing that end with a whoop sound as air is inhaled.
Whooping cough causes coughing spells so bad that it is hard for babies and children
to eat, drink, or breathe. These spells can last for weeks. In babies, it may cause
periods of apnea (not breathing).
It is spread from person
to person through droplets in the air (coughing and sneezing). It is very contagious.
Once the bacteria are in the child's airways, swelling of the airways and mucus
production starts. It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.
Vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis
vaccines work very well to prevent these diseases. Most children who get all their shots
will be protected during childhood. A combination vaccine is given to babies and
children. It protects against all 3 diseases. There are several types of the
It protects against
diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
A newer form of this
vaccine is less likely to cause reactions than former types.
DT or Td boosters:
against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
It is recommended as a
booster shot for teens ages 11 to 18 years who have completed the
recommended DTaP series and as a one-time booster for adults in place of
their next every 10-year booster shot. It should also be given as a booster
after a penetrating injury if the last booster was more than 5 years
When are diphtheria, tetanus, and
pertussis combination vaccines given?
The DTaP vaccine is given in 5
doses to babies and children at these ages:
15 to 18 months
4 to 6 years
Your child also needs a booster
dose called the Tdap vaccine at ages 11 through 12 years. If your child is older than
that, the Tdap should replace the next tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster. The Td
booster should then be given every 10 years throughout life.
Some children should not get the
DTaP vaccines, or should get them at a later date. Other children may get the vaccines
only after consulting with a healthcare provider. These include children who:
Previously had a moderate or
serious reaction after getting vaccinated
Previously had a seizure or
collapsed after a dose of DTaP
Cried nonstop for 3 hours or
more after a dose of DTaP
Had a fever over 105°F (41°C)
after a dose of DTaP
Had brain or nervous system
problems after a previous vaccine
Currently have a moderate or
Your child's healthcare
provider will advise you about vaccines in these cases.
What are the risks from DTaP
Vaccines are often well tolerated.
But they carry a small risk for side effects that can rarely be serious. If there are
reactions, they usually start within 3 days and do not last long. Most people have no
serious reactions from these vaccines. Reactions are much less likely after DTaP than
older forms of the vaccine. Common reactions to these vaccines may include:
Severe reactions such as very high
fever, seizures, or allergic reactions to these vaccines are rare.