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DTP Vaccine - DPT Immunization

Overview & Description

A DPT immunization is a combined vaccine to protect against three diseases: diphtheria, Clostridium tetani\ bacteria. ',CAPTION,'Tetanus');" onmouseout="return nd();">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 joints 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 least 6 months after the third shot. Most children get the fourth shot at about age 15 to 18 months. The fifth shot, or booster, is given when the child is about to enter school. In most states, a child must have another DPT vaccine before starting school, at about age 4 to 6. A shot of Td vaccine, which is the adult version, should be given about 5 years later at age 14 to 16. Additional booster shots are advised every 10 years after that for life.

Preparation & Expectations

What happens right after the procedure?

The parent should console the child after the shot, if needed. A bandaid may be placed over the shot site.

Home Care and Complications

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 medicine or vaccine, there is a slight 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
Date Written:
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Edit Date:12/16/02
Reviewer:Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
Date Reviewed:12/16/02


Emergency Pediatrics: A Guide to Ambulatory Care, 1994, Barkin and Rosen

The Family Practice Desk Reference, 1996, Driscoll et al

DPT Immunization, 1999, Adam Medical Encyclopedia, National Library of Medicine