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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.

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Symptoms

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

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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
    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.

Kid-friendly Fact Sheet

Tetanus bam character

This fact sheet provides information about the disease villain known as tetanus.

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