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DTaP immunization (vaccine)

  • Definition

    DTaP immunization is a combination vaccine that protects against three bacterial illnesses: Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).

    See also: Tdap vaccine


    The DTaP vaccine is highly effective for the prevention of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis -- all of which are serious diseases. Before DTaP, these diseases often lead to serious medical problems and even death.

    DTaP is given by a shot (injection), usually into the arm or thigh. The DTaP vaccine may be given alone or as part of another vaccine, such as Pentacel (DTaP-Hib-IPV) or Pediarix (DTaP-HepB-IPV).


    DTaP vaccination is one of the recommended childhood immunizations. That means, health experts believe all children should get this vaccine.

    DTaP vaccine can be safely given to infants. Five DTaP vaccines are recommended. They are usually given to children at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years. DTaP immunization is generally required before a child can start school.

    DTaP is recommended unless there is a reason that the child should not receive the pertussis vaccine (such as an allergic reaction), in which case a vaccine against diphtheria and tetanus (DT vaccine) only should be given.


    DTaP may cause the following mild side effects, which usually only last a few days:

    • Fever
    • Crankiness
    • Soreness at the injection site
    • Vomiting
    • Decreased appetite

    Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be used to treat common, minor side effects of fussiness, soreness, and fever after the immunization. However, there is some evidence that the use of acetaminophen before the immunization may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad may also help to reduce soreness. Frequently moving or using the arm or leg that has received the injection is recommended and often reduces the soreness.

    Moderate to serious reactions are uncommon. They may include:

    • Non-stop crying for more than 3 hours (1 in 1,000 children)
    • Fever over 105 degrees (1 in 16,000 children)
    • Seizures (1 in 14,000 children)

    Severe reactions are extremely rare, but may include severe allergic reactions such as breathing difficulties and shock. Such reactions occur in less than 1 per 1,000,000 children. Long-term seizures and brain damage have rarely occured, but it is hard to tell if they were caused by the vaccine or not.

    Many parents worry that some vaccines are not safe and may harm their baby or young child. They may ask their doctor or nurse to wait, or even refuse to have the vaccine. However, it is important to also think about the risks of not having the vaccine. See: Immunizations - general overview for more information.

    Usually, a child who has had a problem with the DTaP vaccine can safely receive the Td vaccine.


    If your child is sick with something more serious than a mild cold, DTaP may be delayed until he or she is better.

    The DTaP vaccine is not recommended if the patient developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of receiving a tetanus shot.

    If your child has had any of the following reactions after an earlier DTaP vaccination, check with your health care provider before the child receives another one:

    • Seizures within 3 to 7 days after injection
    • A serious brain problem within 7 days after injection
    • Seizures that get worse
    • Other brain problem (at any time)
    • Mouth, throat, or face swelling within a few hours after the vaccine is given
    • Difficulty breathing (serious allergy) within a few hours after the vaccine is given
    • Fever of 105 degrees or higher within 2 days after the vaccine is given
    • Shock or collapse within 2 days after the vaccine is given
    • Persistent, uncontrolled crying that lasts for more than 3 hours at a time after the vaccine is given


    • You are not sure if your child should get the DTaP immunization
    • Complications or severe symptoms develop after DTaP immunization
    • Other symptoms develop after DTaP immunization
    • You have questions or concerns about DTaP immunization