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Dtp Vaccine

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 2, 2022.

What are the DTP DtaP vaccines?

DTP and DTaP vaccines are a shot of medicine that help protect your child from the diseases diphtheria (dip-theer-e-uh), tetanus (tet-nuss), and pertussis (per-tuh-sis). These 3 diseases were very common before vaccines were found and caused many deaths every year. Most children who get all their shots will be protected during childhood. The risk of getting these diseases will go back up again if children are not immunized.

What are diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis?

  • Diphtheria is a very serious disease that causes an infection and a thick covering in the nose and throat. This can cause breathing problems, paralysis (unable to move), heart failure, and even death.
  • Tetanus (Lockjaw) happens when a wound like a cut gets infected with tetanus bacteria (germ) often found in dirt. The bacteria in the wound makes a poison that causes muscles all over the body to spasm (tighten) painfully. This can cause the jaw to "lock" so your child cannot open his mouth or swallow. Tetanus can also lead to death.
  • Pertussis (Whooping Cough) causes very bad coughing spells which make it hard for your child to eat, drink, or breathe. These coughing spells can last for weeks and can lead to pneumonia (lung infection), seizures (convulsions), brain damage, and death.

When should your child get vaccinated against DTP?

Most children should get a DTP shot at the following times. The DTP vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

  • 2 months.
  • 4 months.
  • 6 months.
  • 12 to 18 months.
  • 4 to 6 years.
  • Booster Shot: Your child needs a booster shot to prevent diphtheria and tetanus at 12 years old and every 10 years afterwards.

Are there people who should not get the DTP vaccine or who should wait until later to get it?

Tell caregivers if your child he has had one of the following problems. Caregivers have information on what to do, such as giving medicine to prevent fever.

  • Ever had a moderate or serious reaction after getting a vaccination.
  • Ever had a seizure in the past.
  • Has a parent, brother, or sister who has had a seizure.
  • Is now moderately (somewhat) or severely (bad) ill.


As with any medicine, this vaccine has some risks. Most children do not have serious reactions (problems) from this vaccine. But, if your child has any problems, they usually start within 3 days and do not last long. Reactions are much less common with the newer DtaP vaccine than with DTP. Following are the kinds of problems your child may have after getting the vaccine.

  • Mild Reactions are common but not serious.
    • Fatigue (feeling tired).
    • Fever.
    • Fussy.
    • Less appetite (does not seem hungry).
    • Soreness or swelling where the shot was given.
    • Vomiting (throwing up).
  • Moderate to Serious Reactions are not very common.
    • Crying nonstop for 3 hours or more.
    • Fever of 105° F (40.6° C) or higher.
    • Less alert, limp, and pale.
    • Seizure.
  • Severe Reactions are very rare.
    • Severe allergic reaction which is breathing problems and shock.
    • Severe brain reaction which is having a very long seizure and going into a coma. Caregivers are still studying to find out whether the pertussis part of the vaccine can cause long-term brain damage after a severe brain reaction.

What can you do to lessen fever and pain after your child is vaccinated?

Give your child an aspirin-free pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (uh-c-tuh-min-uh-fin). This is especially important if your child has ever had a seizure. It is also very important if a parent, brother, or sister has ever had a seizure. Ask your child's caregiver how much pain reliever to give your child and how often to give it. Call your child's caregiver if your child is crying non-stop. Call 911 or 0 (operator) for an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital or clinic if your child has any of the following significant problems.

  • Tell the emergency caregivers what happened, the date and time it happened, and when your child got vaccinated.
    • Fever of 105° F (40.6° C) or higher.
    • Less alert, limp, and pale.
    • Seizure.
    • Trouble breathing.
  • Ask your caregiver to put in a Vaccine Adverse Event Report if your child has a moderate to severe reaction to a vaccine. Or, contact the following:
  • Vaccine Adverse Event Report
    Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
    1401 Rockville Pike, Ste 200N
    Rockville, MD 20852-1448
    Phone: 1-800-835-4709
    Web Address:
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. This is a federal program that helps pay for the care of anyone seriously injured by a vaccine. Contact the following for more information:
  • Health Resources and Services Administration National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
    Parklawn Building, Room 11C-26, 5600 Fishers Lane
    Rockville , MD 20857
    Phone: 1-800-338-2382
    Web Address:

How can I get more information about this and other vaccines?

Ask your child's caregiver for more information or call one of the following organizations.

  • Local or state health department. They can give you the "Parents Guide to Childhood Immunizations" and other information.
  • The National Immunization Program Public Inquiries
    1600 Clifton Road, Mailstop E-05
    Atlanta, GA 30333
    Phone: 1-800-232-4636
    Web Address:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about diptheria, tetanus, pertusis and the DTP vaccine. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.