DTaP immunization (vaccine)

This is a vaccine designed to protect against the diseases of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. See also diphtheria immunization (vaccine), tetanus immunization (vaccine), and pertussis immunization (vaccine).


The DTaP vaccine is a “3-in-1” vaccine that protects against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. It can be given to children less than 7 years old. It is given by injection, usually into the arm or the thigh. DTaP is a newer version of the vaccine which is less likely to cause bad reactions than the older DTP.

DTaP vaccination is one of the recommended childhood immunizations which should begin during infancy. DTaP immunization is generally required before a child can start school. The recommended series includes five immunizations.

DTaP immunization is usually a series of injections given to children at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years. DTaP is recommended unless there is a reason that the child should not receive the pertussis vaccine (such as allergic reaction), in which case the DT should be given.

After the initial series of immunizations, a booster of Td vaccine should be given at age 11-12 years, and every 10 years thereafter.

DTaP vaccine is highly effective for the prevention of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis - all of which are serious, potentially deadly, diseases. DTaP vaccine can be safely given to infants.

DTaP may cause mild side effects, such as fever, crankiness, soreness at the injection site, vomiting, and decreased appetite. They are self-limited and temporary, lasting only a few days.

Moderate to serious reactions are uncommon and include non-stop crying for greater than 3 hours (1 in 1000 children); fever over 105 degrees (1 in 16,000 children); seizures (1 in 14,000 children).

Severe reactions are extremely rare and include severe allergic reaction (breathing difficulties, shock - occurring in less than 1 child per million) and long-term seizures/brain damage (so rare that the association with vaccine is questionable).

If the child is sick with something more serious than a mild cold, DTaP may be delayed until the child is better.

If the child has had any of the following after an earlier DTaP, consult with the health care provider before the child receives another injection of the vaccine:

  • seizures within 3 to 7 days after injection  
  • any serious brain problem within 7 days after injection  
  • worsening of seizures or other brain problem (at any time)  
  • mouth, throat, or face swelling (serious allergy) within a few hours after injection  
  • difficulty breathing (serious allergy) within a few hours after injection  
  • temperature of 105 degrees F or higher within 2 days after injection  
  • shock or collapse within 2 days after injection  
  • persistent, uncontrolled crying that lasts for more than 3 hours at a time within 2 days after injection

Your health care provider may recommend measures to reduce normal postimmunization symptoms. Acetaminophen may be recommended to reduce fever and soreness.

Some providers recommend a dose of acetaminophen be given just prior to the injection to help avert common, minor side effects. Warmth (such as a warm, damp cloth or a heating pad) may help reduce soreness. Frequently moving or using the arm or leg that has received the injection is recommended and often reduces the soreness.


  • uncertain whether DTaP immunization should be given (see delay or contraindications). Often, a child that has problems with the DTaP vaccine can safely receive the DT vaccine.  
  • complications or severe symptoms develop after DTaP immunization, including seizures; fever above 105 degrees F; difficulty breathing or other signs of allergy, shock, or collapse; or uncontrolled crying that lasts for more than 3 hours at a time.  
  • other symptoms develop after DTaP immunization.  
  • there are other questions or concerns about DTaP immunization.


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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