Tetanus: Its Symptoms, Causes, and Vaccination

Tetanus, otherwise known as lockjaw, is a serious bacterial infection that affects your nervous system. It causes painful muscle contractions and can lead to death if left untreated. Tetanus bacteria, present in manure, soil, saliva, and dust can enter a human body through puncture wounds. It can spread through contact with a contaminated surface or objects. The tetanus vaccination can prevent the disease.


Read more about the tetanus disease and its vaccination below.

What Are the Symptoms of Tetanus?

It takes a few days to several weeks or even longer to develop symptoms after the initial infection. Common signs of tetanus include:

  • Sweating and fever
  • Muscle stiffness in your jaw, arms, neck, legs, or abdomen
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle spasms in the face, resulting in a strange-looking grin or steady smile

How and When Should You Get the Tetanus Vaccine?

A tetanus shot is usually given to children to prevent them from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. If you did not receive vaccination yet, you should consider talking to your doctor to get a three-dose primary series. The first dose includes a three-in-one combination called Tdap, it protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. The remaining two doses include a dual vaccine which protects you against tetanus and diphtheria. You receive these vaccinations in the shoulder muscle, over a period of 7 months to one year.

Who All Should Be Vaccinated?

You should get the tetanus vaccine if you:

  • Have recovered from tetanus
  • Have not received a tetanus booster in the last 10 years
  • Did not get primary series of tetanus vaccinations as a child

Tetanus vaccination is recommended for pregnant women. Consult your doctor before getting the vaccination if you experience a moderate to severe acute illness.

Who All Should Not Receive the Tetanus Vaccine?

You should not receive a tetanus shot if you:

  • Have a history of seizures or coma in a week following a prior vaccination
  • Develop an allergic reaction after an earlier vaccination
  • Have swelling or severe pain after an earlier tetanus shot
  • Have a history of epilepsy, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or other nervous system problems

Stay Informed About Your Family’s Vaccination Needs

Ensure each one of your family is protected against tetanus by:

  • Checking your family’s vaccination records
  • Speaking to your doctor if you are not sure about the vaccinations your family has received

How Often Is a Tetanus Shot Needed?

All adults are recommended to receive a tetanus shot every 10 years. If you experience a serious puncture wound, you should get a tetanus booster, regardless of when you received your last tetanus shot.

Are There Any Side Effects of the Tetanus Vaccination?

The tetanus vaccine can cause moderate side effects including:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Body aches or headache
  • Redness, swelling, or soreness on injection site

Even though it is rare that this vaccination causes a severe allergic reaction, here are some side effects to look out for:

  • Dizziness
  • Skin itching, flushing, or swelling
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Breathing trouble
  • A fast heart rate

Contact us or visit our urgent care clinic to learn more about tetanus disease and its vaccinations or to receive any other urgent medical attention.


8-2-8 Urgent Care

8-2-8 Urgent Care, based in Oceanside, California is a state-of-the-art urgent care and walk-in clinic that provides immediate medical care to all your regular healthcare needs. We are an emergency urgent care facility capable of treating everything from minor illness, like a fever or flu, to the more severe illnesses and injuries such as fractures and lacerations, to work related injuries and pediatric urgent care needs. We have an all equipment ready lab that's able to provide immediate test results and we are open every day, including the holidays.

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