Vaccines to Prevent Diphtheria: DTaP or DT


There are four combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). These are DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td. DTaP and DT are given to children younger than seven years of age where as Tdap and Td are given to o

December 5, 2017

Vaccines to Prevent Diphtheria: DTaP or DT

It is important that children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time.  Vaccines also protect teenagers and adults to keep them healthy throughout their lives.
Diphtheria is a respiratory disease that causes a thick covering on the back of the throat. Usually it is caused by bacteria. Gradual onset of sore throat and mild fever are the common symptoms of diphtheria. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death. Diphtheria is contagious and can spread person-to-person by coughing and sneezing.
There are four combination vaccines used to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). These are DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td.
DTaP and DT are given to children younger than seven years of age where as Tdap and Td are given to older children and adults.

DTaP Vaccine: Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis

Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are serious diseases caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis can spreads easily from infected people where as tetanus enters the body through cuts or wounds.
Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat which can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death.
Tetanus causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body which can lead to locking of the jaw. In this condition the patient cannot open his mouth or swallow.
Tetanus can cause death very rarely.
Pertussis causes coughing spells so bad that it is hard for infants to eat, drink, or breathe. These spells can last for weeks which can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.
DTaP is a safer version of an older vaccine called DTP. It can help prevent these diseases. DT does not contain pertussis and is used as a substitute for DTaP for children who cannot tolerate pertussis vaccine.

Who should get DTaP vaccine and when?

There should be 5 doses of DTaP vaccine given to the children at the age of 2,4,6,15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years respectively.
DTaP may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Things and condition taken to be consideration before taking DTaP vaccine:

  • Children should not get DTaP vaccine if they are moderately or severely ill. They should wait until they recover before getting DTaP vaccine.
  • Any child who had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of DTaP should not get another dose.
  • Any child who suffered a brain or nervous system disease within 7 days after a dose of DTaP should not get another dose.

Consult your doctor if your child:

  •     had a seizure or collapsed after a dose of DTaP
  •     cried non-stop for 3 hours or more after a dose of DTaP
  •     had a fever over 105oF after a dose of DTaP

DTaP is not licensed for adolescents, adults, or children aged 7 years and older. The vaccine is not recommended for these group.

Risks from DTaP vaccine:

A vaccine can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Reactions are usually more likely after the fourth or fifth dose than the early one. The risk include:

  • Fever
  • Redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Soreness or tenderness where the shot was given
  • Swelling of the entire arm or leg in which the shot was given, lasting 1-7 days
  • Some of the mild problems which occur 1-3 days after the shot include:
  • Fussiness
  • Tiredness or poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Some of the uncommon and rare problems are:
  • Seizure
  • Non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more
  • High fever, over 105oF
  • Serious allergic reaction
  • Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
  • Permanent brain damage.

For children who have had seizures, for any reason, it is important to control fever. You can reduce fever and pain by giving your child an aspirin-free pain reliever when the shot is given. Follow the package instructions  for the next 24 hours.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes , call 9-1-1 or find the nearest hospital.
The reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
If you are injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim in  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website to get the compensation.