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DPT immunization

Alternative Names 
diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and pertussis vaccine, DPT vaccine, DTP vaccine

A DPT immunization is a combined vaccine to protect against three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Diphtheria spreads when germs pass from an infected person to the nose or throat of others. It can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis, and death.

Tetanus is caused by a germ that enters the body through a cut or wound. It can lead to locking of the jaw and death.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection that is easy to catch. It causes severe coughing and gagging with little or no fever. The coughing may end in vomiting or cause a "whoop" sound when the person tries to breathe in.

When the full DPT vaccine series is given, it protects most children. It also makes these diseases milder for those who do catch them.

Who is a candidate for the procedure? 
DPT is one of the recommended childhood vaccines. It is required in most states.

How is the procedure performed? 
The DPT vaccine is a shot that is given in the thigh or arm. A child needs five DPT shots for full protection. The first shot should be given at 2 months of age. The second and third shots are given within the child's first year. The fourth shot is given at about 15 or 18 months. The fifth shot, or booster, is given when the child is about to enter school. In most states, a child must have the DPT vaccine before starting school. A shot of Td vaccine, which is the adult version, should be given at age 14-16. Additional booster shots are advised every 10 years after that for life.

What happens right after the procedure? 
The parent should console the child after the shot. A band-aid may be placed over the shot site.

What happens later at home? 
The DPT vaccine may cause mild side effects. These include a slight fever, mild crankiness, and tenderness, swelling, and redness at the site of the shot. Acetaminophen can reduce fever and soreness, and can be given before the shot. A warm cloth over the shot site will help reduce soreness.

What are the potential complications after the procedure? 
As with any medication or vaccine, there is a chance of serious complications. Death has occurred in very rare cases. DPT causes complications in about 1 out of 1,750 immunizations. These include seizures and fever above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Difficulty breathing or other signs of allergy may also occur.

Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
Last Updated: 04/26/00
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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