Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are very serious diseases. Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) can help protect against these diseases. And the Tdap vaccine, when given to pregnant women, can help protect newborn babies against pertussis.  

TETANUS (lockjaw) causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness, usually all over the body. It can lead to tightening of muscles in the head and neck so you can’t open your mouth, swallow, or sometimes even breathe.

DIPHTHERIA can cause a thick coating to form in the back of the throat. It can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis, and death.

PERTUSSIS (whooping cough) causes severe coughing spells, which can make breathing difficult. Vomiting, disturbed sleep, weight loss, and rib fractures may also occur. It can also make it difficult to control urine and bowel movements.

Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches, or wounds.


The diseases targeted by Tdap are caused by bacteria.



When to get the Tdap vaccine

One dose of Tdap is routinely given at age 11 or 12. People who did not get Tdap at that age should get it as soon as possible.

Tdap is especially important for health care professionals and anyone having close contact with a baby younger than 12 months.

Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy to help protect the newborn from pertussis. Infants are most at risk for severe, life-threatening issues from pertussis.

Another vaccine, called Td, helps protect against tetanus and diphtheria, but not pertussis. A Td booster should be given every 10 years. Tdap may be given as one of these boosters if you have never gotten Tdap before. Tdap may also be given after a severe cut or burn to help prevent tetanus infection.

Tdap may safely be given at the same time as other vaccines.


Some people should not get the Tdap vaccine

Talk with your doctor if you:

  • Have seizures or another nervous system problem
  • Had severe pain or swelling after any vaccine containing diphtheria, tetanus, or pertussis
  • Ever had a condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
  • Aren’t feeling well on the day the shot is scheduled


Risks of the Tdap vaccine

Mild to moderate problems following Tdap could include:

  • Pain where the shot was given
  • Redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever of 100.4°F to over 102°F
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachache, chills, sore joints
  • Body aches
  • Rash, swollen glands
  • Swelling of the entire arm where the shot was given

Severe problems following Tdap:

  • Inability to perform usual activities
  • Swelling, severe pain, bleeding, and redness in the arm where the shot was given (this is rare)


What if there is a serious problem?

If you think you are having a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.


For more information on the Tdap vaccine or the
Td vaccine, talk with your doctor.