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Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. When the bacteria invade the body, they produce a poison (toxin) that causes painful muscle contractions. Another name for tetanus is "lockjaw" because it often causes a person's neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. Vaccines are recommended for infants, children, teens and adults to prevent tetanus.



Boy holding jaw in pain

The most common initial sign is spasms of the muscles of the jaw, or "lockjaw".

Tetanus symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Jaw cramping
  • Sudden, involuntary muscle tightening – often in the stomach (muscle spasms)
  • Painful muscle stiffness all over the body
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Jerking or staring (seizures)
  • Fever and sweating
  • High blood pressure and fast heart rate


Tetanus Vaccination

  • Tetanus Vaccines: "What You Need to Know" (DTaP, Tdap, Td)
    These CDC vaccine information statements explain who should get tetanus vaccine and when.
  • Tetanus Vaccine Basics
    Offers comprehensive information about tetanus vaccines and other educational tools.
  • Vaccine Safety
    As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue or a vague feeling of discomfort.
  • School Mandates
    Tdap booster requirements for secondary schools.

Tetanus for Kids

Tetanus bam character

Tetanus is a real lowlife, skulking around the dirtiest places, waiting for the chance to infect someone. It hangs out in places like dirt or soil, and in the bowels (intestines) of animals and people...