DTaP Vaccine


The DTaP vaccine protects against:

  • diphtheria a serious infection of the throat that can block the airway and cause severe breathing difficulty
  • tetanus (lockjaw) — a nerve disease, which can occur at any age, caused by toxin-producing bacteria contaminating a wound
  • pertussis (whooping cough) — a respiratory illness with cold symptoms that progress to severe coughing (the "whooping" sound occurs when the child breathes in deeply after a severe coughing bout); serious complications of pertussis can occur in children under 1 year of age, and those under 6 months old are especially susceptible. Teens and adults with a persistent cough may not realize they have pertussis, and may pass it to vulnerable infants.

Immunization Schedule

DTaP immunizations are given as a series of five injections and are usually administered at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years. After the initial series of immunizations, a vaccine called Tdap (the booster shot) should be given at ages 11 to 12, or to older teens and adults who haven't yet received a booster with pertussis coverage. Then, Td (tetanus and diphtheria) boosters are recommended every 10 years.

Why the Vaccine Is Recommended

Use of the DTaP vaccine has virtually eliminated diphtheria and tetanus in childhood and has markedly reduced the number of pertussis cases.

Possible Risks

The vaccine frequently causes mild side effects: fever, mild crankiness, tiredness, loss of appetite, and tenderness, redness, or swelling in the area where the shot was given. Rarely, seizures can occur following DTaP. Most of these side effects result from the pertussis component of the vaccine. Severe complications caused by DTaP immunization are rare. Most kids have little or no problem.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

  • if your child is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
  • if your child has an uncontrolled seizure disorder or certain neurologic diseases or seems not to be developing normally — the pertussis component of the vaccine may not be given, and your child may receive a DT (diphtheria and tetanus) vaccine instead

If your child experienced any of the following after an earlier DTaP, consult with your doctor before your child receives another injection of the vaccine:

  • seizures within 3 to 7 days after injection
  • worsening of seizures
  • an allergic reaction after receiving the vaccine, such as mouth, throat, or facial swelling
  • difficulty breathing
  • temperature of 105° Fahrenheit (40.5° Celsius) or higher during the first 2 days after injection
  • shock or collapse during the first 2 days after injection
  • persistent, uncontrolled crying that lasts for more than 3 hours during the first 2 days after injection

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

Your child may experience fever, soreness, and some swelling and redness in the area where the shot was given. Depending on the age of your child, pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication, and to find out the appropriate dose.

A warm, damp cloth or a heating pad also may help reduce soreness. Moving or using the limb that has received the injection often reduces the soreness.

When to Call the Doctor

  • if you aren't sure whether the vaccine should be postponed or avoided. Children who have had certain problems with the DTaP vaccine usually can safely receive the DT vaccine.
  • if complications or severe symptoms develop after immunization, including seizures, fever above 105° Fahrenheit (40.5° Celsius), difficulty breathing or other signs of allergy, shock or collapse, or uncontrolled crying for more than 3 hours