Diphtheria is an infection caused by bacteria that releases toxins in the body. It spreads easily and can be deadly. The infection and toxins causes a thick coating in the nose and throat. This coating can make it hard to breath.
Tetanus (also known as lockjaw) is caused by bacteria that enter through broken skin. The bacteria release a toxin in the body. It affects the nerves and leads to severe muscle spasms. It can be deadly when it affects the muscles needed for breathing.
Pertussis is also known as whooping cough. It is caused by bacteria that easily spread from person to person. It causes swelling in the airways. This leads to a distinct, severe cough and breathing problems.
DTaP is a vaccine to protect against these three infections.
The vaccine has inactive forms of these bacteria. Inactive forms cannot cause an infection. Instead, they stimulate the body to make antitoxins and antibodies to fight future infections.
DTaP is given to young children. It is given over a series of five shots. The vaccine is given at ages:
Other, similar vaccines that are approved for older children and adults are:
Common side effects are:
Less common, but more serious side effects are:
Acetaminophen is sometimes given for pain and fever after a vaccination. In infants, this may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. It should only be given if advised by a child's care team.
Children should not receive the DTap vaccine if they have had:
Children who are sick may be advised to wait by their care team.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent these infections. Other strategies are:
In the event of an outbreak, all people who have not received the vaccine should receive it. Antibiotics may be advised for people in close contact with someone who is infected.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Diphtheria. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/diphtheria. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/dtap.html. Accessed September 3, 2021.
DTaP vaccine: What you need to know (VIS). Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis-Vaccines-What-You-Need-to-Know.aspx. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Pertussis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pertussis. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Td (tetanus, diphtheria) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/td.html. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Tetanus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tetanus. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated: 9/3/2021