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Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Vaccine
What Does This Vaccine Help Prevent?
This vaccine helps prevent:
- Diphtheria—which causes a sore throat associated with a thick covering in the back of the throat
- Tetanus—which causes painful muscle tightening all over the body (also known as lockjaw)
- Pertussis—which causes bad coughing spells and may occur at any age, but when it occurs in infants and young children, it makes breathing, eating, and drinking difficult; also known as whooping cough
What Is the DTaP Vaccine?
The DTaP vaccine is composed of diphtheria and tetanus toxoids that can create an antitoxin, and small pieces of inactive pertussis bacteria.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The DTaP vaccine is generally required before starting school. The regular immunization schedule is to give the vaccine at:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 15-18 months
- 4-6 years
If you or your child have not been fully vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, talk to the doctor.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Tetanus Vaccine?
Most people tolerate the tetanus-containing vaccines without any trouble. The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site, mild fever, tiredness, nausea, or vomiting. Rarely, a fever of more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius) and seizures may occur.
Acetaminophen is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medication may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. However, in children at risk for seizures, a fever-lowering medication may be important to take. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with the doctor.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
The vast majority of people should receive their tetanus-containing vaccinations on schedule. However, individuals in whom the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits include those who:
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of DTaP
- Have had a brain or nervous system disease within 7 days after a dose of DTaP
Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have:
- Epilepsy or other nervous system problems
- Severe swelling or severe pain after a previous dose of any component of the vaccination to be given
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Moderate or severe illness—wait until you recover to get the vaccine
What Other Ways Can Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
The best way to prevent diphtheria is to get vaccinated.
Caring properly for wounds, including promptly cleaning them and seeing a doctor for medical care, can prevent a tetanus infection.
You can help prevent pertussis by keeping infants and other people at high risk away from infected people.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine adsorbed. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 6, 2016. Accessed June 7, 2016.
DTaP vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/dtap.pdf. Updated May 17, 2007. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Immunization schedules for infants and children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child.html. Updated May 4, 2016. Accessed June 7, 2016.
10/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Prymula R, Siegrist C, et al. Effect of prophylactic paracetamol administration at time of vaccination on febrile reactions and antibody responses in children: Two open-label, randomised controlled trials. Lancet. 2009;374(9698):1339-1350.
11/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) in pregnant women and persons who have or anticipate having close contact with an infant aged < 12 months—Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60(41):1424-1426.
- Reviewer: Marcie Sidman, MD
- Review Date: 06/2016
- Update Date: 06/03/2013