Tetanus (lockjaw) is a serious bacterial disease of the nervous system that causes painful tightening of the body muscles. It can lead to an alarming "locking" of the jaw so you cannot open your mouth or swallow.
Besides lockjaw, early symptoms can include stiffness in the neck and abdomen, muscle spasms and seizure-like activity. Tetanus enters the body through a break in the skin.
Diphtheria is a respiratory bacterial disease that causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death.
The gradual onset of symptoms includes a sore throat and a low-grade fever. Diphtheria is spread by coughing and sneezing.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends 5 doses of diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine for infants and children. One dose of DTaP vaccine is recommended at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years old. DTaP vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
Everyone needs protection from diphtheria and tetanus. If you have not had a booster shot in 10 years or more, have recently had spider bites or puncture wounds, or have never had the initial 3-shot series -- you should be vaccinated.