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TDAP Side Effects

In 1997, the FDA approved the injectable TDAP vaccine to protect older children and adults against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, three potentially fatal and always painful diseases. The TDAP vaccine boosts immunity from these diseases in people who received a series of five DTaP injections before the age of 6.

The National Institutes of Health recommend one injection of TDAP vaccine for 11- to 12-year-old children and for 19- to 64-year-old adults. They also advise a tetanus-diphtheria, or TD, booster every 10 years following those injections. The Centers for Disease Control cautions that both children and adults face a small risk of mild to life-threatening TDAP side effects.

Mild Side Effects

These side effects have no effect on a person’s normal activities. They include:

  • Pain, redness or swelling around the vaccination site
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Headache
  • Joint soreness
  • General aches
  • Fever between 100.4 and 100.9 degrees

The most common of these side effects is pain at the injection site, affecting about 75 percent of children and 67 percent of adults. Fever occurs in 4 percent of children and 1 percent of adults. Swollen glands, rash, joint soreness and body aches are very rare.

Moderate Side Effects

These TDAP side effects may keep people from their normal activities without meriting medical attention. They include:

  • Pain, redness or swelling around the vaccination site
  • Fever of at least 102 degrees
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

People receiving the TDAP vaccine have a very small risk of developing these reactions. Only 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults have swelling or redness near the injection site. Three percent of children and 1 percent of adults have moderate stomach upset. Even fewer develop headaches or fever.

Severe Side Effects

The CDC reports that two participants in clinical trials testing the TDAP vaccine experienced nervous system problems. These side effects, however, may not have been vaccine-related. They resolved without medical treatment and had no lasting effects.

The rarest and most severe of TDAP side effects is an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, congestion, wheezing, throat and chest tightness and general respiratory distress. In extreme cases, anaphylactic shock can lead to:

  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cardiac failure
  • Death

Anaphylactic shock requires immediate medical attention.

Dr. Hugh Sampson of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine reported at the April 2011 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting that seven of his patients experienced anaphylaxis after receiving the vaccine. While all seven had milk allergies, only one batch of the vaccine contained traces of milk protein. The CDC estimates that one of every 1 million TDAP vaccine recipients develops anaphylaxis.

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