What Is Tetanus?
is a bacterial infection that attacks the nervous system. Tetanus may result in severe muscle spasms, and this can lead to a condition known as lockjaw, which prevents the mouth from opening and closing. Tetanus can be fatal.
Tetanus is caused when the bacterium,
enters the body through a break in the skin. The bacterium can come from soil, dust, or manure. It produces a toxin that causes the illness.
In the United States and other countries with tetanus vaccination programs, the condition is rare.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Tetanus Vaccine?
Most people tolerate the tetanus-containing vaccines without any trouble. The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site, mild fever, headache, tiredness, nausea, vomiting,
, or stomachache.
Rarely, a fever of more than 102ºF, severe gastrointestinal problems, or severe headache may occur. Nervous system problems and severe allergic reactions are extremely rare. Localized allergic reactions (redness and swelling) at the injection site may occur, while
(life-threatening, widespread allergic reaction) is extremely rare.
(eg, Tylenol) is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medicine may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. However, in children at risk for siezures, a fever lowering medicine may be important to take. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with the doctor.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
The vast majority of people should receive their tetanus-containing vaccinations on schedule. However, individuals in whom the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits include those who:
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to DTP, DTap, DT, Tdap, or Td vaccine
- Have had a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine to be given
Have gone into a
or long seizure within seven days after a dose of DTP or DTaP
Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have:
- Allergy to latex
or other nervous system problem
- Severe swelling or severe pain after a previous dose of any component of the vaccination to be given
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
Wait until you recover to get the vaccine if you have moderate or severe illness on the day your shot is scheduled.
What Other Ways Can Tetanus Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
Caring properly for wounds, including promptly cleaning them and seeing a doctor for medical care, can prevent a tetanus infection.