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.
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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)
- Fever and sweating
- Changes in blood pressure and fast heart rate
- 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
As with all vaccines, there can be 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: January 10, 2017
- Page last updated: January 10, 2017
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