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Serious Reactions to Childhood Vaccines Unlikely to Recur

Serious reactions to childhood vaccines are rare. For example, seizures occur in about 1 in 14,000 children after a DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis) shot. But what if your child is among the few who have experienced a bad reaction? A review article in Pediatrics offers reassuring news.

Onetime Reactions Don’t Necessarily Repeat

The review authors looked at the results from 29 published studies, most involving babies or children. The evidence suggested that, for children who had experienced a bad reaction to a vaccine in the past, getting future doses was usually safe. That’s important, because to be fully effective, many vaccines must be given in multiple doses spaced out over time.

In the data reviewed, serious reactions to vaccines included seizures, anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions, which may cause hives, swelling of the face and throat, and trouble breathing), and hypotonic hyporesponsive episodes (HHEs; sudden bouts of limpness and unresponsiveness). The risk of these reactions occurring again at later vaccinations was less than 1 percent in the reviewed studies.

Less serious reactions were more likely to recur with future vaccinations. Those covered by the review included fever, persistent crying, extensive swelling, sleepiness, and loss of appetite. Still, fewer than half of children had repeat episodes of these reactions. And among those who did, the problem was often milder the next time around.

Discuss Any Vaccine Concerns with Your Child’s Doctor

Most children can safely get all their recommended vaccinations. Let the pediatrician know if your child has ever had a bad reaction to a vaccine, such as an allergic reaction, seizure, high fever (over 105 degrees), or nonstop crying for hours afterward.

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