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The DTaP vaccine is a safer vaccine version of the DTP vaccine (now discontinued in many countries due the adverse reactions caused by it). The DTaP vaccine refers to a combination of vaccinations that helps children under the age of 7 become immune against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (whooping cough).

Here are some basics about these diseases in order to give you a complete understanding of the components of the DTaP vaccine:

Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that causes a sore throat, weakness, and fever while developing a thick grey coating in the nose and in the back of the throat. This causes extreme difficulties in breathing and swallowing, which can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, and even heart failure in some severe cases. Diphtheria is highly contagious disease and can spread easily through coughing and sneezing. The symptoms of diphtheria may vary from mild to severe, but this disease cannot be taken lightly no matter how mild the symptoms may appear to be because it can even lead to death if not treated. Diphtheria is a highly common childhood disease that is treatable by vaccination. Therefore, getting a vaccination is strongly recommended. A DTaP vaccine covers this, along with providing immunization against two other diseases.

Tetanus

Tetanus (also known as Lockjaw) is an infection caused by the tetanus bacteria which is often found in dirt and dust. A wound is the most likely cause of contracting tetanus wherein the bacteria enters the body and secretes a poison which causes the muscles of the entire body to spasm. This usually causes the patient’s jaw to "lock" preventing him/her from being able to open his/her mouth or swallow. These spasms begin from the jaw and soon spread to the rest of the body. The spasms usually only last for a few minutes, but they can be so severe that they can even cause bone fractures. These spams are known to occur frequently and last up to three weeks. Tetanus often causes painful seizures, and can even lead to paralysis. The toxin released by the tetanus bacteria attacks the nervous system, therefore, if left untreated, tetanus can also cause death. Vaccination for the same is a must. A DTaP vaccine covers this, along with providing immunization against two other diseases.

Pertussis

Pertussis (also known as Whooping Cough) is a highly contagious bacterial infection which causes severe coughing spells that make it difficult for the patient to eat, drink, or even breathe. It is a common childhood disease and initial symptoms may be similar to that of influenza i.e. cold, cough, runny nose, and fever. These coughing spells can take up to several weeks to get okay which is why Pertussis is also referred to as 100-day cough sometimes. Pertussis is known to lead to pneumonia, seizures, and even brain damage in some cases. Sometimes the patient’s cough so hard that it causes vomiting or even breaks their ribs. In some severe cases, Pertussis can also lead to death. Like Diphtheria, Pertussis is also a highly contagious disease that is known to spread easily through coughing, therefore, getting a vaccination for the same is the sensible thing to do. A DTaP vaccine covers this, along with providing immunization against two other diseases.

Why should your child be given the DTaP vaccine?
  • These diseases were extremely common, especially amongst children, and caused many deaths every year before DTaP vaccines were developed in order to immunize children against them.
  • These diseases are still common, but due to higher rates of immunization in children, less children are affected by them.
  • Most children who get all their shots of the DTaP vaccine are completely protected against these deadly diseases during their childhood.
  • The risk of contracting these diseases will rapidly increase again if children are not vaccinated. Baby vaccinations are, therefore, essential.
  • Getting your child vaccinated with the DTaP vaccine will protect him/her from these uncomfortable and severe infections.
  • Two of these three diseases are highly contagious so getting your child vaccinated will also protect the unvaccinated children in a way.
  • Immunization of children goes a long way in building a community of healthy adults.
  • Immunization prevents these life-threatening diseases from spreading rapidly from one person to another like they have the potential to.
  • Lack of immunization will eventually lead to an uncontrollable rise in these diseases again, causing widespread sickness and even death.
Immunization Schedule – DTaP Vaccine

The DTaP vaccine is to be administered in a series of 5 doses to children under the age of 7. A DTaP shot should ideally be given at each of the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 15–18 months
  • 4–6 years
DTap Vaccine Boosters

Once these 5 shots of the DTaP vaccine have been administered, children should get a booster shot, called TDaP, at the age of 11-12.
The booster shot, TDaP, is also advisable for older teenagers and adults who missed the booster after getting their shots of the DTaP vaccine.
After taking these 6 shots i.e. 5 shots of the DTaP vaccine and 1 TDaP booster, a TD (Tetanus and Diphtheria) booster is recommended every 10 years for everyone.
It is highly recommended for pregnant women to get the TDaP vaccine (or the booster) in the second half of every pregnancy. Pregnant women should undergo vaccination even if they've been vaccinated earlier as children.
The TDaP booster should also be given after when someone has suffered from a deep cut or severe burn in order to protect against a possible tetanus infection.

Are there any side effects of getting the DTaP vaccine?

The chances of your child suffering from any of these side effects after getting the DTaP vaccine are extremely low. However, the chances of your child suffering from Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis are extremely high if he/she has not been vaccinated as per schedule.
Side effects known to be associated with the DTaP vaccine have been divided in two groups, namely:
· common side effects of the DTaP vaccine, and
· uncommon side effects of the DTaP vaccine

Common Side Effects of the DTaP vaccine

There are some mild side effects that usually occur after getting the DTaP vaccine. Some of them are as follows:

  • Mild fever
  • Redness around the spot of injection
  • Weakness
  • Swelling at the site of the shot
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Soreness around the spot of infection
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Tenderness at the site of the shot
  • Fussiness
  • Vomiting

These side-effects usually occur within 1-3 days of getting the DTaP vaccine, if at all they do. These do not cause trouble for long durations as these problems are known to pass quickly.
NOTE: If your child has/had a history of seizures, it's important to control the fever caused by the DTaP vaccine, however mild it may be.

Uncommon Side Effects of the DTaP Vaccine

Apart from the common side-effects listed above, the DTaP vaccine, in some rare, but not unheard of cases, can cause the following:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Seizures
  • Hoarseness
  • Non-stop crying for over 2 hours
  • Wheezing
  • High fever i.e. above 103 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Hives
  • Serious allergic reaction (usually visible within minutes of administering the DTaP vaccine)
  • Paleness
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Dizziness

These effects are extremely uncommon, but should be watched out for after getting the DTaP vaccine shots, just in case something doesn’t feel normal. These effects are usually visible within a few days of getting the DTap vaccine, so if they occur much later, they usually have nothing to do with the DTaP vaccine.

Who should not get the DTaP vaccine?

In certain cases, it is advisable to avoid or delay the DTaP vaccination. People who should not get a DTaP vaccine include the following:

  • A child who is just 6 weeks old or younger than that should not be given the DTaP vaccine under any circumstances.
  • Children who are suffering from a mild or severe illness during the time they are scheduled to receive the DTaP vaccine should wait until they have fully recovered from whatever it is they are suffering from.
    (Common infections like cold should not be considered as reasons to delay the vaccination)
  • A child suffering from a severe allergic reaction should avoid getting the DTaP vaccine.
  • A child who has contracted an allergy after being given a dose of the DTaP vaccine, should not be given another dose or delay it, as per the doctor’s recommendation.
  • A child who has contracted a disease related to the brain or the nervous system soon after receiving a dose of the DTaP vaccine should not nervous system be given another dose.
  • Children who suffer from a serious reaction due to the Pertussis part of the DTaP vaccine should not be given another dose. Such children, however, can be given a vaccine called DT that will immunize them against diphtheria and tetanus.
  • If your child suffers from any of the following, she/he should be rushed to the doctor and should not be given another dose of the DTaP vaccine before consulting the doctor.
  • A child who has had a seizure or suffered from a collapse after a dose of the DTaP vaccine.
  • A child whose seizure disorder has worsened after receiving a dose of the DTaP vaccine.
  • A child who has cried persistently and uncontrollably for 2-3 hours (or more) after being given a dose of the DTaP vaccine.
  • A child who has a fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit after receiving a shot of the DTaP vaccine.
  • A child who has suffered from a lethal allergic reaction after the previous dose of the DTaP vaccine.
  • A child who went into a state of shock within 2 days of being given a shot of the DTaP vaccine.
  • A child who has experienced swelling in or around the face, mouth or throat after receiving a dose of the DTaP vaccine.
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