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Tetanus - vaccine

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Alternative Names    Return to top

Vaccine - tetanus; Immunization - tetanus

Definition    Return to top

The tetanus vaccine is a type of immunization that protects against tetanus (lockjaw).

Information    Return to top


There are different types of tetanus vaccines:

The DTaP vaccine is a "3-in-1" vaccine that protects against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. DTaP vaccination is one of the recommended childhood immunizations.

The DT vaccine is a "2-in-1" vaccine that protects against diphtheria and tetanus. It does not protect against pertussis. The vaccine can be given to children less than 7 years old. It may be given if a person cannot receive DTaP (for example, if a child has had an allergic reaction to the pertussis vaccine in the past).

The Td vaccine is the "adult" vaccine. It is a "2-in-1" vaccine that protects against tetanus and diphtheria. It contains a slightly different dose of diphtheria vaccine than the DT vaccine. It can be given to anyone older than 7 years old. It is injected, usually into the arm.

A booster Td vaccine should be given at ages 11 - 12. Older children who need a booster Td vaccine at ages 11 or 12 should receive the tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. Older children between ages 11 and 18 who have not already received a TD booster vaccine should receive the new Tdap vaccine.

Instead of the standard Td booster every 10 years, adults between the ages of 19 and 65 should receive Tdap one time. If a booster shot is needed after receiving the Tdap as an adult, the standard Td should then be given.

The DT and Td vaccines are being replaced most of the time by DTaP or Tdap vaccines.

Tetanus vaccine (T vaccine) can be given as a single vaccine, but this is not generally available. It is also injected, usually into the arm. T vaccine or a Td booster may be given to an adult receiving care for a wound or injury that breaks the skin. Typically, a booster is given if the wound is dirty and the last Td booster was given more than 5 years prior to the injury.

See the individual articles for specific vaccine information, including their risks and benefits:

If a child is sick with something more serious than a mild cold, immunization may be delayed until the child is better.

Some health care providers recommend giving your child one dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) just before getting a vaccine to help avoid common, minor side effects. A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad may also help reduce soreness. Frequently moving or using the arm or leg that has received the shot is also recommended to help reduce discomfort.

Adults who receive the Td or T vaccine (particularly if received more often than every 10 years) may experience soreness and swelling at the injection site, lasting for 2 or 3 days.


References    Return to top

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Recommended immunization schedules for children and adolescents--United States, 2008. Pediatrics. 2008;121(1):219-220.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0–18 years--United States, 2008. MMWR. 2007;56:Q1-Q4.

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, October 2007-September 2008. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147(10):725-729.

Update Date: 6/19/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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