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.
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.
Tetanus vaccines can cause minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue, or discomfort.
Learn about Tdap booster requirements for secondary schools.
- Page last reviewed: January 10, 2017
- Page last updated: April 14, 2017
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