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- Tetanus (also called lockjaw) is rare in the United States today. It is an infection that causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness, usually all over the body. It can lead the muscles in the head and neck to tense, preventing the individual from opening his or her mouth, swallowing or sometimes even breathing. Tetanus kills about 1 in 10 people who are infected, even after receiving the best medical care.
- Diphtheria is also rare in the United States today. It attacks healthy tissues in the respiratory system and creates a thick coating of dead tissues in the nose, tonsils, voice box and throat. It can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis and even death.
- Pertussis (whooping cough) causes severe coughing spells, which can cause difficulty breathing, vomiting and disturbed sleep. It can also lead to weight loss, incontinence and rib fractures. Up to 2 in 100 adolescents and 5 in 100 adults with pertussis are hospitalized or have complications, which can include pneumonia or death.
Tdap is the combined vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, three very serious bacterial diseases.
Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person through secretions from coughing or sneezing. Tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches or wounds.
The Tdap vaccine can protect us from all of these diseases. When given to pregnant women, the Tdap vaccine can protect newborn babies against pertussis.
Before vaccines, as many as 200,000 cases of diphtheria, 200,000 cases of pertussis and hundreds of cases of tetanus were reported in the United States each year. Since vaccination began, reports for tetanus and diphtheria have dropped by about 99%, and pertussis reports have dropped by about 80%.
The 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 the Tdap vaccine at that age should get it as soon as possible. In addition to the initial dose of Tdap, adults should receive a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years.
Receiving the vaccine is especially important for healthcare professionals and anyone who will be in 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.
The Tdap vaccine can protect adolescents and adults from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Another vaccine, known as 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 before received the Tdap vaccine. Tdap may also be given after a severe cut or burn to prevent tetanus infection.
Services and availability vary by location. Pharmacy, Clinic, and Telenutrition services are available in select areas. Access our pharmacy locator to find a pharmacy near you. The Little Clinic practices in the following states only: AZ, KY, OH, TN, CO, IN, GA, KS, VA. Access our clinic locator to find a clinic near you. Telenutrition services where medical nutrition therapy is provided are not available in AK, MT, NJ, NY, SC, WY, or where otherwise prohibited by applicable law.