Preventing Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis


Why do I need a Tetanus shot?

Tetanus shots protect you from the serious illness caused by tetanus bacteria. These bacteria can enter the body through a deep cut or puncture wound, such as one you might get from cutting yourself with a knife or by stepping on a dirty nail.

Tetanus infection causes a painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. Particularly dangerous is the “locking of the jaw,” which can cause suffocation because you cannot open your mouth or swallow.

How often should I get a Tetanus shot?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends you get a tetanus booster shot at least every 10 years. This vaccine is called “Td” and is combined with diphtheria toxoid to also protect you from this rare and infectious respiratory infection. If you cannot remember when you had your last tetanus shot, it’s a good idea to check your health records or contact your doctor to determine the date of your last shot.

Due to the potential for adverse reactions, it is not advised to have the boosters closer together than 5 years. Remember to record the date of your vaccination in an easy-to-find place so you’ll know when you need the next one.

The Tdap vaccination protects you from:

  • Tetanus (as noted above)
  • Diphtheria – causes a thick covering in the back part of the throat that can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, and heart failure
  • Pertussis – also known as whooping cough, causes severe cough illness that is easily spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing; infected adults

For more information about tetanus shots, you can ask your health care provider, or visit the National Institutes of Health.