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Side Effects of the DTaP Vaccine

Vaccinating infants and children against infectious diseases is a choice parents must make. One of the most common vaccines in the United States is the DTaP vaccine, which consists of a series of shots given by a healthcare provider. The DTaP vaccine prevents the spread of Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis from an infected or exposed person to another person. The Federal Drug Administration introduced the DTaP vaccine in 1997 to replace the DTP vaccine formula, which was linked to safety concerns in young children. Similar to other childhood immunizations, DTaP side effects are minimal when compared to the risks of contracting one of the three diseases it protects against.

Who Needs DTaP Vaccine?

Doctors recommend that all children receive the DTaP vaccine series to prevent the spread of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Infants receive a series of five doses of the vaccine beginning at two months of age. The remaining doses occur at four months, six months, between 15 and 18 months, and the final dosage before entering school between four and six years of age. Most children who receive the full series of the shots are protected throughout their childhood from contracting these diseases.

Certain considerations need to be taken before the shot is administered to prevent potential side effects. Delay the shot when the child has a moderate to severe sickness until they recover. Avoid the vaccine in the event of a previous life-threatening allergic reaction, seizure or fever over 105 degrees F to the DTaP vaccine. Children who experienced a nervous system or brain disease within seven days of a previous DTaP vaccine should not receive another dose.

Children over the age of seven years old, adolescents and adults receive a different version of the vaccine called Tdap. This single dose vaccine protects against the same diseases, but it is formulated for people ages 11 through 64 years old.

What is DTaP?

A formula of Diphtheria toxoid, tetanus vaccine and acellular pertussis create the protective immunization shot. The DTaP immunization contains a combination of vaccines and provides protection against three bacterial illnesses.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection spread from person to person. The infection causes a thick coating in the back of the throat, which leads to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis and even death.

Tetanus, also called lockjaw, enters the body through open wounds or cuts. People with tetanus experience painful muscle contractions and tightening all over the body, especially the jaw. Death occurs in every two out of ten reported cases.

Pertussis, or whopping cough, is a highly contagious disease spread from person to person. In children, coughing spells reduce the ability to eat, drink and breathe. Whopping cough can last for weeks and lead to seizures, pneumonia, brain damage and even death.

DTaP Side Effects

Approximately twenty-five percent of children who receive the DTaP vaccine experience minor side effects. These include low-grade fever, redness, swelling or tenderness at the injection site. Additionally, children may become fussiness, tiredness or vomiting following the immunization.

Moderate to severe side effects occur less frequently and include seizures; non-stop crying that lasts over three hours and fever over 105 degrees F. Rarely, children experience life-threatening allergic reactions and permanent brain damage.

In some cases, children may experience rare but serious side effects. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services links brachial neuritis, Gillian-Barre syndrome and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis to the DTaP vaccine. Brachial neuritis causes inflammation of nerve bundles in the shoulder, arms and fingers and results in muscle weakness or atrophy. Gillian-Barre syndrome has no cure and includes symptoms of blurred vision, paralysis and low blood pressure. Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, ADEM, causes headaches, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, seizures and coma.

Most DTaP side effects can be reduced with a dose of aspirin-free pain reliever at the time of the vaccine and for the following 24 hours. Follow the package instructions for proper dosage amounts and frequency.

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