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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

9 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.

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