Diphtheria is spread by coughing and sneezing. It causes a sore throat, low-grade fever, and can completely clog a person's airway. Diphtheria can cause breathing and heart problems, coma, paralysis, and death.

Symptoms include:

  • The gradual onset of a sore throat.
  • A low-grade fever.
  • Weakness.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes of the neck.

Scientific Term

  • Diphtheria

Generic Term

  • Diphtheria

Age Groups at Risk

  • All

Fact Sheet

Vaccine Information

Ages birth to seven: DTaP or DT Vaccine

  • Kids should be immunized in the first 18 months of life with a four-shot series of the combination vaccine, DTaP. It includes diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Kids who get all four doses before their fourth birthday should get a fifth dose before starting kindergarten or elementary school. The fifth dose isn't necessary if the fourth dose was given on or after the fourth birthday. This combination vaccine is not given to people over age seven. DT vaccine is available for kids under seven who can't tolerate the pertussis (whooping cough) component.

Ages 10 and up: Tdap or Td Vaccine

One dose of Tdap vaccine is recommended for:

  • Kids aged 7 to 10 years who did not get all 5 doses of DTaP vaccine.
  • Adolescents aged 11 to 18 years (preferably at 11 or 12 years of age). After getting a dose of Tdap, a Td shot is needed every ten years.
  • Pregnant women and pregnant adolescents need to get Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, even if they've been vaccinated before. This gives moms more time to develop immunity to protect their baby against whooping cough.
  • Adults aged 19 years and older, especially anyone in close contact with babies less than 12 months of age. After getting a dose of Tdap, a Td shot is needed every ten years.
  • Kids in grades 6-12 who are at least 11 years old are required to show proof of Tdap vaccination. Click here for all Washington school and child care requirements.

Vaccine Information Statements

Related Information

Department of Health:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: