Childhood Diseases Vaccinations Dtap

The DTaP vaccine was developed in the 1930s, and has been in widespread use since the 1940s to prevent the spread of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. These are all bacterial infections that can cause serious or life-threatening illness.

About Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that causes a thick covering to occur in the throat. Complications of diphtheria can include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Heart failure
  • Paralysis
  • Sometimes death.

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, can lead to extremely painful tightening of muscles all over the body. It’s called lockjaw because it often causes the jaw to tighten so much that it seems to lock and the person cannot talk or swallow. Tetanus leads to death in up to 20 percent of cases.

Pertussis is more commonly called whooping cough because of the sound made toward the end of its intense coughing spells. These coughing spells can be so severe that they may cause difficulty in eating, drinking and breathing. Some severe complications of pertussis include:

  • Brain damage
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Sometimes death.

DTaP is effective in preventing these diseases. If vaccinated according to schedule, children should be adequately protected from acquiring diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis.

About the DTaP Immunization

DTaP vaccine is an inactivated vaccine. This means it does not contain live bacteria that can reproduce. For this reason, it is important that children receive multiple doses of the vaccine. Typically, children will be given five separate doses at ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15 to 18 months
  • 4 to 6 years.

Check with your child’s physician if you think you may have missed a dose or that you are behind on your child’s vaccination schedule.

Possible Side Effects

Like any medication or immunization, there is a possibility of experiencing side effects. DTaP is a safe vaccine that has been improved upon from its earlier version, called DTP. Some possible side effects of the vaccine are:

  • Crankiness or irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever
  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Vomiting.

It’s been shown that these occur most frequently in the last two doses of the vaccine. Serious reactions or complications of DTaP vaccine are very rare, but may include:

  • Breathing problems
  • High fever (above 105 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Non-stop crying (more than 3 hours)
  • Seizures.

A modified version of the vaccine can be given to those who experience complications. Call your child’s pediatrician right away if she experiences any of these symptoms.

Certain children should not be vaccinated with DTaP. Those with moderate or severe illnesses should wait to receive the vaccine. Those who have experienced a severe reaction shouldn’t receive another dose. Consult with your physician about a plan of action in these cases.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (n.d.). Diphtheria, tetanus