Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccines - what you need to know
All content below is taken in its entirety from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) DTaP vaccine information statement (VIS) --
Page last updated: August 6, 2021
Why get vaccinated?
DTaP vaccine can prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
Diphtheria and pertussis spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through cuts or wounds.
- Diphtheria (D) can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, or death.
- Tetanus (T) causes painful stiffening of the muscles. Tetanus can lead to serious health problems, including being unable to open the mouth, having trouble swallowing and breathing, or death.
- Pertussis (aP), also known as "whooping cough," can cause uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe, eat, or drink. Pertussis can be extremely serious especially in babies and young children, causing pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, or death. In teens and adults, it can cause weight loss, loss of bladder control, passing out, and rib fractures from severe coughing.
DTaP is only for children younger than 7 years old. Different vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap and Td) are available for older children, adolescents, and adults.
It is recommended that children receive 5 doses of DTaP, usually at the following ages:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 15-18 months
- 4-6 years
DTaP may be given as a stand-alone vaccine, or as part of a combination vaccine (a type of vaccine that combines more than one vaccine together into one shot).
DTaP may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
Talk with your health care provider
Tell your vaccination provider if the person getting the vaccine:
- Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of any vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis, or has any severe, life-threatening allergies
- Has had a coma, decreased level of consciousness, or prolonged seizures within 7 days after a previous dose of any pertussis vaccine (DTP or DTaP)
- Has seizures or another nervous system problem
- Has ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (also called "GBS").
- Has had severe pain or swelling after a previous dose of any vaccine that protects against tetanus or diphtheria
In some cases, your child's health care provider may decide to postpone DTaP vaccination until a future visit.
Children with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. Children who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting DTaP vaccine.
Your child's health care provider can give you more information.
Risks of a vaccine reaction
- Soreness or swelling where the shot was given, fever, fussiness, feeling tired, loss of appetite, and vomiting sometimes happen after DTaP vaccination.
- More serious reactions, such as seizures, non-stop crying for 3 hours or more, or high fever (over 105°F) after DTaP vaccination happen much less often. Rarely, vaccination is followed by swelling of the entire arm or leg, especially in older children when they receive their fourth or fifth dose.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.
What if there is a serious problem?
An allergic reaction could occur after the vaccinated person leaves the clinic. If you see signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness), call 9-1-1 and get the person to the nearest hospital.
For other signs that concern you, call your health care provider.
Adverse reactions should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your health care provider will usually file this report, or you can do it yourself. Visit the VAERS website at
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines. Claims regarding alleged injury or death due to vaccination have a time limit for filing, which may be as short as two years. Visit the VICP website at
How can I learn more?
- Ask your health care provider
- Call your local or state health department
- Visit the website of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for vaccine package inserts and additional information at
Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO) or
- Visit CDC's website at
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Vaccine information statements (VISs) DTaP (Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccine - what you need to know.
Last reviewed on: 8/6/2021
Reviewed by: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.