Diphtheria and Tetanus Toxoids Vaccine: Uses

Diphtheria and tetanus are serious diseases caused by bacteria.

Diphtheria causes a thick coating in the nose, throat, and airways. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, or death.

Tetanus (lockjaw) causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to “locking” of the jaw so the victim cannot open the mouth or swallow. Tetanus leads to death in about 1 out of 10 cases.

Diphtheria is spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through a cut or wound.

The diphtheria and tetanus toxoids vaccine (also called DT) is used to help prevent these diseases in children who are ages 6 weeks to 6 years old, before the child has reached his or her 7th birthday.


How the Medicine Works

This vaccine works by exposing your child to a small dose of the bacteria or a protein from the bacteria, which causes the body to develop immunity to the disease. This vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.


Important Information

The diphtheria and tetanus toxoids vaccine is given in a series of shots. The first shot is usually given when the child is 2 months old. The booster shots are then given at 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 18 months of age. A fifth booster dose is given between 4 and 6 years of age.

Your child’s booster schedule may be different from these guidelines. Follow your doctor’s instructions or the schedule recommended by your local health department.

The pediatric version of this vaccine (DT) should not be given to anyone over the age of 6 years old. Another vaccine is available for use in older children and adults.

Side Effects

Call your doctor at once if the child has a serious side effect such as:

  • extreme drowsiness, fainting;
  • severe headache or vomiting;
  • fussiness, irritability, crying for an hour or longer;
  • confusion, seizure (black-out or convulsions); or
  • high fever.

Less serious side effects include:

  • redness, pain, tenderness, swelling, or a hard lump where the shot was given;
  • mild fever;
  • mild fussiness or crying;
  • joint pain, body aches;
  • mild drowsiness; or
  • mild vomiting.


Keywords: diphtheria and tetanus toxoids vaccine.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.