Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis Vaccine


What Does This Vaccine Help Prevent?

This shot helps block:

  • Diphtheria —causes a sore throat with thick coating in the back of the throat
  • Tetanus —causes painful muscle tightening all over the body; also known as lockjaw
  • Pertussis —causes bad coughing spells that may happen at any age; in babies and young children, it may make eating, drinking, and breathing hard

What Is the Tdap Shot?

It has diphtheria and tetanus toxoids. It also has small pieces of pertussis bacteria that are not active.

It is given to children 7 years of age and older. It is also given to adults to protect against infections.

It is given as a shot in the arm or thigh.

Who Should Get the Shot and When?


Tdap is given to children aged 11 years of age or older. It is given even if they did not have the DTaP series. Tdap can also be given to:

  • Children aged 7 to 10 years of age who have not been fully vaccinated
  • Children (aged 11 years of age and older) and adults who did not get Tdap should get the shot. It should be followed by a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster every 10 years
  • Adults who have never received Tdap
  • Women in their 27 to 36th week of pregnancy even if they have received Tdap in the past

Catch Up Shots

If you or your child have not been fully vaccinated, talk to the doctor.

What Are the Risks of the Shot?

Most people do not have any problems. The most common ones are:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the site
  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Belly pain

These health problems can happen, but they are not common:

  • Fever over 102° Fahrenheit (38.9° Celsius)
  • Severe digestive problems
  • Severe headache

Acetaminophen is sometimes given for pain and fever after getting a shot. In babies, it may weaken the shot. But in children at risk for seizures, it may need to be taken. Talk to your doctor about whether this is right for your child.

Who Should Not Get the Shot?

Most people should get their shots on time. People who may be at risk for problems are those who:

  • Have had a reaction to Tdap that threatened their life
  • Have had a severe allergy to any part of the shot to be given
  • Have gone into a coma or have had seizures within 7 days after a dose of Tdap

Talk with your doctor before getting the shot if you have:

  • Epilepsy or other nervous system problems
  • Severe swelling or pain after a prior dose of any part of the shot to be given
  • Guillain Barre syndrome
  • Been very sick—wait until you get better to get the vaccine

What Can I Do So I Don't Get Infected?

The best way to block diphtheria is to get vaccinated.

Clean all wounds right away. Follow up with your doctor for care to block a tetanus infection.

Babies and people at high risk should avoid contact with infected people.

What Should I Do During a Pertussis Outbreak?

If there is an outbreak, all people who may have been exposed should be brought up to date with their shots. Babies and people at high risk should avoid contact with infected people. Finding out whether you have the disease right away can help stop it from spreading.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed October 27, 2020.

Immunizations in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/immunizations-in-children-and-adolescents. Accessed October 27, 2020.

Robinson CL, Bernstein H, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years or Younger - United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Feb 7;69(5):130-132.

Tdap vaccine: what you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/tdap.pdf. Accessed October 27, 2020.

Vaccinations for adults. Immunization Action Coalition website. Available at: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4030.pdf. Accessed October 27, 2020.

Whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Program website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/default.htm. Accessed October 27, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD