Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap) are very serious diseases that are caused by bacteria. Tetanus (lockjaw) enters the body through cuts, scratches, or wounds, and causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness, usually all over the body. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person through secretions from coughing or sneezing. Diphtheria can cause a thick coating to form in the back of the throat which can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis, and death. Pertussis (whooping cough) causes severe coughing spells, which can cause difficulty in breathing, vomiting and disturbed sleep, weight loss, incontinence, and rib fractures.
Tdap vaccine can protect adolescents and adults from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. 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 healthcare 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 protect the newborn from pertussis. Infants are most at risk for severe, life-threatening complications from pertussis.
Another vaccine, called Td, protects 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 prevent tetanus infection.
Immunization Action Coalition
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