Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Tetanus and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent It

Fact Sheet for Parents

Printer friendly version[2 pages]
Español: Tétano

The best way to protect against tetanus is by getting the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shot (also called the DTap shot). Doctors recommend that all children get the vaccine.

Why should my child get the DTaP shot?

The DTaP shot:

  • Protects your child from tetanus, a potentially serious disease (and also protects against diphtheria and whooping cough)
  • Protects your child from painful muscle stiffness from tetanus
  • Keeps your child from missing school or childcare (and keeps you from missing work to care for your sick child)

Is the DTaP shot safe?

Yes. The DTaP shot is very safe, and it is effective at preventing tetanus. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Most children who get the shot have no side effects.

What are the side effects?

Most children don’t have any side effects from the shot. When side effects do occur, they are usually mild and may include:

  • Redness, swelling, and pain at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

These types of side effects happen in about 1 child out of every 4 children who get the shot.

More serious side effects are very rare but can include:

  • A fever over 105 degrees
  • Nonstop crying for 3 hours or more
  • Seizures (jerking or twitching of the muscles or staring)

Booster vaccines needed to keep up protection from tetanus

The DTaP does not offer lifetime protection. People need booster vaccines to keep up protection from tetanus.

Children should get a booster vaccine called Tdap (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) at 11 or 12 years of age.

Adults need a booster called the Td vaccine (for tetanus and diphtheria) every 10 years. Adults should also receive a one-time shot of the Tdap vaccine in place of one Td shot.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a serious disease caused by a toxin (poison) made by bacteria. It causes painful muscle stiffness and can be deadly.

What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Tetanus in children starts with headache, jaw cramping, and muscle spasms (sudden, involuntary muscle tightening).

It also causes the following:

  • Painful muscle stiffness all over the body
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Seizures (jerking or staring)
  • Fever and sweating
  • High blood pressure and fast heart rate

Tetanus is often called “lockjaw” because the jaw muscles tighten, and the person cannot open his mouth.

Is it serious?

Tetanus is very dangerous. It can cause breathing problems, muscle spasms, and paralysis (unable to move parts of the body). Muscle spasms can be strong enough to break a child’s spine or other bones.

It can take months to recover fully from tetanus. A child might need weeks of hospital care. As many as 1 out of 5 people who get tetanus dies.

How could my child get tetanus?

The bacteria that cause tetanus are found in soil. They get into the body through a puncture, cut, or sore of the skin. A person can also be infected after a burn or an animal bite.

Tetanus does not spread from one person to another.

Where can I learn more about the DTaP shot and my child?

To learn more about the DTaP shot, talk to your child’s doctor, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit the CDC Vaccines for Parents site.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend all children receive their vaccines according to the recommended schedule.

 

Fact Sheets for Parents
Diseases and the Vaccines that Prevent Them

Top of Page

External Web Site Policy This symbol means you are leaving the CDC.gov Web site. For more information, please see CDC's Exit Notification and Disclaimer policy.

Copyrighted images: Images on this website which are copyrighted were used with permission of the copyright holder and are not in the public domain. CDC has licensed these images for use in the materials provided on this website, and the materials in the form presented on this website may be used without seeking further permission. Any other use of copyrighted images requires permission from the copyright holder.

 
For Parents: Vaccines for Your Children.
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
    Contact CDC-INFO
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #