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What Causes Non-Stop Crying After DTaP Vaccines?

Most children cry after getting a shot.

Fortunately, they can usually be comforted quickly.

Historically, there has been one situation where kids might cry for longer periods of times.

Non-Stop Crying After DTaP Vaccines

The DTP vaccine was known to cause non-stop crying, for 3 hours or more in up to about 1 child out of 1,000.

“Persistent crying following DTaP (as well as other vaccines) has been observed far less frequently than it was following the use of DTP. When it occurred after DTP, it was considered to be an absolute contraindication to further doses of pertussis-containing vaccine. When it occurs following DTaP, it is considered a “precaution” (or warning). If you believe the benefit of the pertussis vaccine exceeds the risk of more crying (which, although unnerving, is otherwise benign), you can administer DTaP.”

Immunization Action Coalition on Ask the Experts about DTP

Although uncommon, it is certainly scary to have a child cry for 3 hours or more after a vaccine.

I guess that’s one good reason we don’t use the DTP vaccine anymore. On the other hand, although the newer DTaP has fewer side effects, it doesn’t work as well as the older DTP vaccine at protecting kids against pertussis.

What Causes Non-Stop Crying After DTaP Vaccines?

Some people have very wrong ideas about what caused this non-stop crying after the DTP vaccine, which is reflected in the nick-names they gave it, such as the “DTP scream,” “cry-encephalitis,” or the “encephalitic cry.”

If your child has had non-stop crying after their DTP vaccine, or DTaP vaccine for that matter, you can be reassured that they didn’t have encephalitis!

The forums of Mothering.com are notorious for pushing anti-vax misinformation, including the idea of an "encephalitic cry."
The forums of Mothering.com are notorious for pushing anti-vax misinformation, including the idea of an “encephalitic cry” after DTP vaccines.

Again, although it is scary to have your child crying non-stop for 3 hours or more, this crying is benign and has no long term effects.

So what is causing it?

It is thought to be a painful local reaction.

Remember that the next time you see a vaccine scare video about the “DTaP scream” or talk about encephalitis

What to Know About DTaP Crying

Crying non-stop for 3 hours or more after a vaccine can be scary. Fortunately, DTaP crying is not caused by encephalitis or any other terrible thing you might read about. It is a painful local reaction.

More on DTaP Crying

13 thoughts on “What Causes Non-Stop Crying After DTaP Vaccines?”

  1. “It is thought to be a painful local reaction.”

    My last DTaP booster left my arm aching and throbbing for several hours and painful to bump for several days. Had I been a toddler, I would have been whining, crying and clinging the whole time. Because I’m an adult, I put an ice pack on it and took a liquid pain killer with ice and tonic.

  2. It is THOUGHT to be a local pain reaction. I assume since you’re positive it’s NOT encephalitis of any kind or severity because you’ve given CT scans or MRI’s to the thousands of kids taken to the ER after screaming bloody murder for six hours and puking from crying so hard, then, right? And the resulting personality changes after that reaction, I’m sure that’s not related at all either, right?

    1. I had one of those (I think, my arm hurt so bad, but it was probably because I don’t do needles well and tensed up.) and I’m fine. Yeah it hurt and stung a bit, but I knew I needed it if I wanted to live.

      I have autism btw. No, the vaccines didn’t cause that, I’m just like this.

  3. What is the mechanism by which the vaccine would cause pain? Pain occurs as a result of a biological event, often inflammatory in nature.

  4. My kid screamed bloody murder for 15 hours. He would flinch and cry harder every time we touched him. I couldn’t even comfort him.

    I’m curious how encephalitis has been ruled out for this. Were there studies with scans taken of thousands of babies?

    I’m not being onery here. I really want to know how and why it was ruled out. I’m a science minded person who has continued to vax my kids, but I would like more answers.

    1. Encephalitis is not ruled out. If you search “National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act: Vaccine Injury Table” that is one of the injuries listed for the DTaP vaccine. My child screamed for over 6 hours before he became unconscious. If he woke he resumed screaming. My family has a history of high fever/swelling/reactions to multiple vaccines so it is a very difficult decision to vaccinate. They claim this reaction happens 1 in 1,000 children. Absolutely horrendous experience. The only advice I would offer is asking how much of a risk the illness is where you live. Would the illness be worse than the reaction to the vaccine if they did contract it?

  5. Bullshit. I never post but feel important that I do. I’ m NOT an anti Vaxer. My son Got his first set of shots within 10 minutes extremely high pitched cry. A day and a half of screaming fussing vomiting and 105 temp. The next five days in the hospital with a spinal tap and brain scan on an infant confirming encephalopathy. The cdc then sent me paperwork asking for records saying very likely from shot as well as dr opinion.

    He is 21 now And has permanent damage after years of therapy. Do your homework!!! Some shots are safer then others and certain people are more likely to react to certain ones. He has gotten most of them, but there r still a few based on research and science that we and his dr agree he shouldn’t get. We also did one at a time which takes more time but isn’t it worth it to prevent long term damage?

    Whenever someone says the vaccine definitely did not cause the problem I cringe. Do the research!! The cdc publishes results, the science shows 1 in a million could be affected. Being one in a million really sucks; we never thought we would be that one and that it would be so life altering. Shots are important , necessary and safe for most, but never trust someone who tells u rest assured the dtap didn’t cause the encephalitis. My dr, the cdc and the brain scan showed otherwise.

    Please don’t bother bashing me. I will not read responses nor do I care what u think. My sole purpose for posting is so others don’t have to go through what we went through. I was always told shots were safe and most are, but I wish someone had told me not to blindly trust a dr who said they are completely safe. Do your homework , the data and research is out there. Make an educated decision on how you will approach the decision and what is best for your individual child.


    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have a 20 year old son who screamed for hours after dtap and I did my own research and only let him get one shot at a time. He just joined the army and brought his religious exemption with him which they didn’t accept. They gave him 7 vaccines including covid vaccine and he had to leave boot camp to go to the hospital- they think he has guillain barre. I am so upset!

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