The DPT or DTAP is an immunization or vaccine to protect against the diseases diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. Five doses are commonly given to children between the ages of two months to five years old. They provide lifelong immunity, in most cases, to diphtheria and pertussis, but do not provide lifelong immunity to tetanus. Tetanus vaccinations need to be repeated every eight to ten years in order to remain effective.
One of the earliest vaccinations a baby receives is the DPT, since especially pertussis — also called whooping cough — and diphtheria are associated with high death rates and complications in young children. Tetanus is usually less common and most often occurs if people are exposed to dirt containing tetanus germs. This can happen if someone get cut on a rusty fence, gets dirt with these germs into a cut, or works around horses, where tetanus would be common if not for similar animal vaccinations.
Most children have mild reactions to the DPT vaccine and can include fever and crankiness for a few days, along with soreness at the injection site, which is usually the thigh in infants and the arms in older children. About 1% of children who receive the vaccine may suffer moderate reactions, including crying that can last three hours or more, and fever of up to 105°F (40°C).
Very severe reactions to the immunization are extremely rare, occurring in about one in every 140,000 children. Children who are allergic to the shot components may go into anaphylactic shock right after receiving the injection. This is normally quickly addressed in a doctor’s office by giving the child an epinephrine injection. Children who have had an allergic reaction to the DPT vaccine will not receive future injections. This makes them more vulnerable to contracting these diseases, albeit a risk lessened when other parents immunize their children.
The most severe reactions are seizures, unconsciousness, and death, but these risk factors are weighed against the much greater risk of dying from an illness against which the DPT vaccine protects. Studies in the 1990s suggested that the most common reactions are to the pertussis portion of the hot. In the 2000s, the US began giving the DTAP, containing acellular, not whole cell, forms of pertussis. This is considered safer and just as effective in providing immunity against whooping cough.
There are some differences in the preparation between American and European forms of the vaccine, and Europe does not use preservatives in their DTAP preparation. Preservatives in the vaccinations, particularly those that contain mercury, have caused concerns with some people, who fear that they may pose additional risks to children. It should be noted that the US no longer uses mercury-based preservatives in DPT vaccines.