What is the combined diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccine?
This combined immunisation protects you from three diseases, diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Given as a single dose injected into the muscle in the upper arm, it is effective for up to 10 years.
The vaccine is routinely offered by the NHS to young people aged 14 in the UK to boost protection, and known as the 3-in-1 booster or the Td/IPV vaccine.
Who should get the combined diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccine?
Diphtheria, tetanus and polio are found worldwide. If you’re planning a trip to an area where the risk of infection is high and where access to medical treatment is limited, you should get this jab before you travel.
Who should not get the combined diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccine?
You should not get the vaccine if you:
- are allergic to any of the ingredients of the vaccine, including those present in trace amounts
- have previously had an allergic reaction or neurological problems after a dose of the vaccine
- are ill with a fever, in which case you should postpone vaccination until you’ve recovered.
What are the side effects of the combined diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccine?
Some people may experience minor side effects, including redness, swelling or tenderness at the site of the injection. Sometimes a small, painless lump develops, which usually disappears after a few weeks. Less common side effects include dizziness, headache, nausea and fever.
What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a disease caused by a bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It spreads from person to person usually through sneezing, although infection is also possible through contact with contaminated objects.
Symptoms include fever, sore throat, swelling of the neck glands, and weakness. In some cases, the infection can lead to complications such as breathing problems, heart failure and even death. Diphtheria is found in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is a disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. Tetanus infection occurs from cuts in the skin by objects contaminated with soil, feces, or saliva, usually nails or needles. This disease can be fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms usually appear 4 to 21 days after infection and include:
- Muscle stiffness, particularly in the jaw
- Painful muscle spasms which make breathing and swallowing difficult
What is polio?
Polio is a viral infection that affects the brain and spinal cord and can lead to paralysis and even death. There is no cure, so vaccines are important for stopping transmission.
The polio virus generally spreads from person to person by mouth or fecal-oral route, although it can also spread through particles released into the air by sneezes. Infected people can infect others up to two weeks after they experience symptoms.
Most polio infections are asymptomatic. However, some people develop the following symptoms, which pass in about a week:
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
In more severe cases, patients may also experience tingling or numbness in the legs, meningitis (an infection of the layers surrounding the brain), and paralysis. Paralysis can be permanent and affect the muscles of the respiratory system, causing death.