As a grandparent, you want to do everything you can to help keep your entire family healthy. But you may not realize protecting yourself from contagious diseases is an important part of making sure everyone, including your grandchildren, stay safe and healthy. One of the best ways to help protect yourself is by receiving regular vaccinations for infectious diseases, like tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis). It’s true infections with tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough occur more rarely than they once did. But these diseases still exist, and they can cause serious complications, especially for infants and younger children. Fortunately, the Tdap vaccine, which protects against all three of these pathogens, is widely available and is generally inexpensive. Why You Should Get Vaccinated Both tetanus and diphtheria are caused by bacteria. The bacteria that causes tetanus usually enters the body through cuts or other wounds, while the bacteria causing diphtheria are spread from person to person through sneezing or coughing. Today, infections with tetanus and diphtheria are rare. The decline in the numbers of people infected is due, in large part, to the development of a vaccine, known as the Tdap vaccine. Before the Tdap vaccine was developed, hundreds of cases of tetanus and as many as 200,000 cases of diphtheria occurred in the United States every year. But now, because most people are regularly vaccinated, the numbers of people infected with these diseases has fallen by about 99%. While rates of infection with the bacteria causing whooping cough, also called pertussis, have also fallen, this disease continues to be a health concern, especially for younger children. Like diphtheria, whooping cough is also spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. For many older children and adults, the disease causes uncomfortable, but manageable, symptoms, including nasal congestion, runny nose, fever, and cough. Most teens and adults recover from whooping cough with no complications. But for infants and toddlers, whooping cough can lead to serious problems. As the disease worsens, thick mucus builds up within the airways, causing uncontrollable coughing. In babies and young children, the accumulation of this mucus can lead to other complications, which can be life-threatening. These complications may include: Difficulty breathing Pauses in breathing Dehydration Pneumonia Seizures Brain damage To best help protect your family against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria, it’s important you stay on top of your vaccination schedule. Your doctor can help you determine when you, and your younger family members, should be vaccinated to ensure the most protection possible. Different Vaccines for Different Ages Fortunately, the vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough is available for people of all ages. Even the youngest members of your family can receive the vaccination to help boost their immunity. Infants and toddlers receive a version of the vaccination known as Dtap. It’s recommended that your youngest grandchildren receive the Dtap vaccine on a certain schedule, to build up high levels of protection that are maintained over time. Babies and toddlers should receive the Dtap vaccine at: 2 months 4 months 6 months 15-18 months 4-6 years For teens and adults, the Tdap vaccine is recommended at a minimum of every 10 years. However, research shows immunity to whooping cough wears off over time, and only 3 to 4 people out of every 10 people are still fully protected 4 years after getting vaccinated. You can get the Tdap vaccine anytime you need to, especially if you have very young children in your family. Protecting yourself and your grandchildren against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough is important. One of the best, and easiest, ways to do so is to receive regular Tdap vaccinations, and to make sure your grandchildren receive all recommended vaccinations, including Dtap, when appropriate. If you’re concerned about your risk for developing these illnesses, speak with your doctor about getting vaccinated. Your doctor will discuss your vaccination options to help keep your family as healthy as possible.