DTap and Tdap Vaccines

Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis are serious illnesses that can often become deadly in a short period of time.

Thankfully, there is a way that you and your loved ones can safeguard yourself from these horrible diseases that once ran rampart within the United States and are still seen within other countries around the world.

Thanks to the DTap and Tdap vaccines, these illnesses have become increasingly rare within the United States, making it imperative that you vaccinate yourself and your children.

In order to understand how the DTap and Tdap vaccines provide you with immunity to these diseases, it is first important to learn more about vaccinations including how they work and the potential, and often mild, side effects that may be experienced.

By learning more about diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis — you can become aware of risk factors, how these diseases are spread, their symptoms and the overall importance of becoming vaccinated. To learn more about the DTap and Tdap vaccines, including the difference between the two — review the sections that have been provided below.

How does the DTap and Tdap vaccine work?

DTap and Tdap vaccines play an important role in keeping your body healthy and preventing serious diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. In order to understand how the DTap and Tdap vaccines work, it is first important to understand what a vaccine is.

A vaccine is made up of trace amounts of weakened or dead germs that case the disease that you would like to prevent. By introducing these dead and weakened germs to your immune system, you can prepare your body to fight against the disease more efficiently and, sometimes, grant your body complete immunity against a particular disease.

While small amounts of the disease are introduced to your body, it is crucial that you understand that vaccines do not cause you to become afflicted with the disease itself. In fact, vaccinations are thoroughly tested for years by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they become recommended to the public.

Due to vaccinations in the United States, there are dozens of horrendous and often life threatening diseases that have become very rare within the U.S. Therefore, becoming vaccinated is your best chance at preventing these diseases.

The Difference Between DTap and Tdap Vaccines

The DTap vaccine is recommended for children that are between the ages of six weeks and six years while Tdap is recommended for children and adults who are 11 years of age or older.

The DTap vaccine is part of a child’s regular vaccine schedule with four to five doses administered throughout childhood. If a child cannot be vaccinated for the pertussis virus due to existing health conditions or allergic reactions, the DT vaccination is available. The DT vaccine will only vaccinate a child against diphtheria and tetanus.

Only one dose of Tdap is given and, as mentioned previously, this vaccine cannot be administered prior to the age of 11. However, Tdap will also help you build immunity against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.


Diphtheria was once very common within the United States, consisting of high mortality rates, especially among children. In fact, in the 1920’s, the United States saw as many as 200,000 cases of diphtheria each year.

However, thanks to the DTap and Tdap vaccines, the number of cases that the United States sees has decreased by 99.9 percent. While outbreaks of diphtheria are all but unheard of in the United States now, there have still been large outbreaks in other countries, making it imperative that vaccinations for this serious disease continue.

Creating a thick coat of dead tissue in the nose and throat, diphtheria is caused by a particular strand of bacteria that is highly contagious. Diphtheria can be spread from one person to another if a person with diphtheria sneezes, coughs and even through objects that an afflicted person touches, such as toys. Diphtheria may seem mild at first with symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • A sore throat
  • General weakness

However, diphtheria can cause serious health complications including paralysis, serious lung infections such as phenomena and complete lung failure.

While there is a risk of death in every age group, one in five children who are under the age of five and senior citizens who are over the age of 55 will die from a case of diphtheria.

Tetanus (Lockjaw)

Though uncommon since 1947, tetanus (also referred to as lockjaw) is a very dangerous and deadly disease with up to a 20 percent mortality rate. Similarly to diphtheria, tetanus is caused by a form of bacteria that generally enters the body through broken skin such as a deep wound, burns or dead skin.

Those afflicted begin to have trouble breathing and experiencing painful muscle spasms that are so strong that they can break bones. Tetanus can also cause permanent paralysis as well as other symptoms such as:

  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Faster heart rates
  • Fever and sweating
  • Severe headaches
  • Stuff muscles

Once afflicted with the disease, there is no cure. Therefore, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against tetanus. After receiving your DTap or Tdap vaccine(s), it is important to know that adults who are 19 years of age and older must receive a booster shot of the tetanus vaccine once every 10 years.

Pregnant women must also get an additional booster of the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of every pregnancy.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is another once common disease within the United States. It had once effected more than 200,000 children alone each year as it is an incredibly contagious disease. Not only can it be easily spread from one person to the next, but symptoms generally start out similar to the common cold.

This means that people who are afflicted with pertussis will likely spread it to other people without even knowing that they have the disease. The disease can quickly turn deadly, especially for newborn babies and young children.

Pertussis can cause serious health conditions such as brain damage, convulsions and serious lung infections such as pneumonia. It can last for 10 or more weeks with symptoms such as coughing fits, vomiting during or after coughing fits, exhaustion after coughing fits and even turning blue from a lack of oxygen.

In fact, the coughing fits can become so hard that a person’s ribs can become broken and they can lose control of their bladder.

Unlike tetanus, you will not need to have a booster administered every ten years. However, pregnant women will still need a booster shot of the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.

Common Side Effects of DTap and Tdap Vaccines

While side effects are rare, they do happen, just as in the case of any medication. Most common side effects are very mild and will go away on their own after a few days. Potential side effects of the DTap vaccine include:

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

While common side effects of the Tdap vaccine include:

  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

Both vaccines carry a small risk of pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. Allergic reactions are very rare, but may induce hives, swelling of the throat and face, difficulty breathing and weakness.

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