The DT vaccine is a combination vaccine. It protects against diphtheria and tetanus. This vaccine is used for children younger than seven years of age, who are unable to tolerate another common vaccine, DTaP, which also protects against pertussis, or whooping cough.
These diseases are potentially life-threatening. Diphtheria causes the throat and nose to become thickly coated, resulting in breathing problems. It may lead to paralysis, coma, heart failure, and even death, if it is not treated. Tetanus may also be fatal. It can cause painful muscle tightening and may cause the jaw to become immobile, which inhibits swallowing or speaking.
DT vaccines work by stimulating the production of antibodies that fight the bacteria responsible for diphtheria and tetanus. The vaccine is given as a series of four injections. Typically, a child will receive the first injection when he is between six and eight weeks old. The injection series should be completed before the child is seven years old. Each injection is administered into a muscle, often the upper thigh or upper arm.
Parents should be aware of possible side effects of the DT vaccine. Some mild side effects may include irritation, itching, or bruising at the injection site. Sometimes, a child may also have swelling, redness, or a hard lump there. Often, a child will experience no side effects at all.
It is possible for a child to experience an allergic reaction to this vaccine. Should this occur, the parent should get him to a hospital emergency room immediately. Some symptoms of an allergic reaction may include hives, facial swelling, and tightness in the chest. Other serious side effects may include respiratory problems and difficulty swallowing. The DT vaccine may also cause a rapid heartbeat, fever, and tingling in the extremities.
Not all children are able to have the DT vaccine, such as children who are allergic to one of the ingredients, like thimerosal. Children who have had an allergic reaction to a similar vaccine may also be unable to have it. Patients with a neurological disorder, like epilepsy, or someone with Guillain-Barre Syndrome may be precluded from using this vaccine. Additionally, patients who have a fever or other moderate illness should wait to get vaccinated until they recover.
Children who are receiving medication may also be unable to have this vaccine. Anti-coagulants, like warfarin, and immunosuppressive therapy, such as corticosteroids or cytotoxic drugs, may interfere with the DT vaccine. Parents should discuss any medications and medical conditions the child has with the doctor prior to the administration of the DT vaccine.