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  • DTaP Vaccine Protects Children From Three Serious Infectious Diseases

    It is one of the vaccines children are recommended to receive during their first few months of life.
    by Kate Borbon .
DTaP Vaccine Protects Children From Three Serious Infectious Diseases
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    The diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine is one of the 13 vaccines included in the 2019 Childhood Immunization Schedule prepared by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) in cooperation with the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV). It should also be available in health centers all over the country for free.

    Read below to learn more about the DTaP vaccine and the three diseases that it helps protect children from.

    What is diphtheria?

    Diphtheria, which is caused by a type of bacterium called Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is a potentially life-threatening disease that affects the mucus membranes of the nose and throat. The most distinct symptom of diphtheria is a thick gray material that covers the back of the throat and blocks the airway, making it hard to breathe.

    Mayo Clinic writes this contagious illness can spread through: airborne droplets from an infected person who sneezes or coughs; touching items used by an infected person; and using contaminated household items like towels. Touching an infected wound is another way to get diphtheria.

    Symptoms of diphtheria

    The signs and symptoms of diphtheria typically begin to show two to five days after the child gets infected, according to Mayo Clinic. Aside from the thick membrane covering the throat and the tonsils, other symptoms of diphtheria include sore throat, difficulty in or rapid breathing, nasal discharge, and malaise(an overall feeling of weakness and discomfort).


    Of course, problems in breathing are a typical complication of diphtheria. However, it can also lead to nerve damage, since the C. diphtheria toxin harms the nerves that helps control the muscles used in breathing, as well as heart damage, because the toxin can also spread through the bloodstream and impair other body tissues, including the heart muscle.

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    What is tetanus?

    Tetanus is another serious illness commonly known as lockjaw. While this vaccine-preventable illness is not contagious, it is painful. People who get infected experience muscle tightening and stiffness all over their bodies, particularly in the head and neck, which makes it difficult for them to open their mouths, swallow, or even breathe.

    This disease is also caused by a spore-forming bacterium called Clostridium tetani, which is commonly found in soil that is contaminated with animal and human feces. The spores of this bacterium can enter the body through wounds and punctures. It grows into bacteria that produce a toxin called tetanospasmin, which can damage the motor neurons or the nerves that control the muscles of the body. It then leads to stiffness and spasms of the muscles, which can be painful and even violent, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Symptoms of tetanus

    After the tetanus bacteria enters a child’s body through a wound, the symptoms of tetanus can begin to show within a few days or even after several weeks. These symptoms include stiffness in the muscles in the jaw, neck, and abdominal area, difficulty in swallowing, and painful body spasms that may be triggered by stimuli like touch, noise, or light. Some people who get infected with tetanus may also show symptoms like fever, an increased heart rate, sweating, and higher blood pressure.

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    Complications of tetanus include broken bones as a result of the severity of the body spasms, a blockage of lung artery, and even death, especially because the spasms triggered by the disease can interfere with breathing.

    What is pertussis?

    Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a contagious respiratory illness which manifests primarily as fits of rapid and violent coughs followed by a high-pitched “whooping” sound. According to the CDC, this type of extreme coughing can cause an infected person to vomit and be very exhausted, and can possibly last about 10 weeks or more.

    Like diphtheria and tetanus, pertussis is also caused by a bacterium, known as Bordetella pertussis. This type of bacterium attaches to the cilia (the small hairs found inside the nose), which lines part of the upper respiratory system, then releases toxins that impair the cilia and cause the airways to swell.

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    Symptoms of pertussis

    After a child is exposed to and gets infected with pertussis, he can develop symptoms within 5 to 10 days, says the CDC. In the early stages of pertussis it can appear to be just the typical cold, but eventually, other signs like violent coughing fits and coughing can also manifest. In babies, one common symptom may be apnea, a condition in which they stop breathing for about 15 to 20 seconds while asleep.

    Babies and young children, especially those who have not been properly immunized, are extremely vulnerable to pertussis and its potentially deadly complications. The CDC says that around half of children less than a year old who are infected with pertussis require hospital care.

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    Treatment of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), immediate and proper treatment is crucial for children who get diphtheria patients can die from the disease. Doctors may prescribe children with an antitoxin to fight the diphtheria toxin along with antibiotics like penicillin or erythromycin.

    There is no cure to tetanus, but patients who get infected with this usually receive medications to ease the symptoms, proper wound care, and supportive care. Wounds need to be cleaned and rid of dirt, foreign objects, and dead tissue to help avoid the growth of tetanus spores.

    Pediatricians might also recommend using medications like an antitoxin to neutralize the tetanus toxin, antibiotics to fight the tetanus bacteria, sedatives to control muscle spasms, and other drugs to regulate involuntary muscle activity like the heartbeat.

    Early treatment is also important for kids who get pertussis, since this can help make the infection less serious and prevent spreading the illness to others. Doctors prescribe antibiotics for infected patients that you need to follow to the letter if your child gets it. The CDC has several important reminders on home treatment for kids who get pertussis. Parents can use a cool mist vaporizer to help loosen the mucus and soothe the cough. Get rid of irritants like dust in the home and make sure your child drinks lots of fluids.

    DTaP vaccine is the best prevention

    You can drastically reduce your child’s likelihood of getting illnesses by making sure he receives the appropriate number of doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine. According to the AAP, children need five doses of the DTaP vaccine to be administered at the following ages:

    • 2 months
    • 4 months
    • 6 months
    • 15 to 18 months
    • 4 to 6 years

    Later, children who complete the recommended amount of doses of the DTaP vaccine before reaching 7 years old need to get their first booster shot when they are about 11 or 12 years old. Subsequent booster shots are to be given at 10-year intervals, combined with the tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine, which is the tetanus booster.

    It is possible that some kids will have to follow a different vaccination schedule, perhaps because they are moderately or severely ill, suffering from brain or nervous system disease, or experienced a serious allergic reaction after a dose of the vaccine. Parents are recommended to consult their pediatricians.

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    Why it’s important to give kids the DTaP vaccine

    Experts agree that the best way to prevent children from experiencing diphtheria, tetanus, or pertussis and the potentially life-threatening complications of any of those illnesses is by making sure that they are properly immunized with the DTaP vaccine.

    “Most children who are vaccinated with DTaP will be protected throughout childhood,” the AAP writes on its health resource site Healthy Children. “Many more children would get these diseases if we stopped vaccinating.”

    The DtaP may cause side effects like fever and redness or swelling in the injection site. Some children may also experience fussiness, tiredness, or vomiting. Allergic reactions can happen, but it is rare. If your child's fever is over 40.55°C, he has been crying non-stop, or he experienced seizures, bring him to the ER.

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