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”. It often causes a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. CDC recommends vaccines for infants, children, teens, and adults to prevent tetanus.

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About Tetanus

Causes and transmission, symptoms and complications, prevention…

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Tetanus vaccine basics, vaccine safety, school mandates…

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Reported tetanus cases...

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Boy holding jaw in pain

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

Tetanus symptoms include:

  • Jaw cramping
  • Sudden, involuntary muscle tightening (muscle spasms) – often in the stomach
  • Painful muscle stiffness all over the body
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Jerking or staring (seizures)
  • Headache
  • Fever and sweating
  • Changes in 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 a tetanus vaccine and when.
  • Tetanus Vaccine Basics
    This page offers comprehensive information about tetanus vaccines and other educational tools.
  • Vaccine Safety
    Tetanus vaccines can cause minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue, or discomfort.
  • School Mandates
    Learn about Tdap booster requirements for secondary schools.
Page last reviewed: February 28, 2019