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What are the Most Common Side Effects of the Tetanus Vaccine?

By T. Broderick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Common side effects of the tetanus vaccine include fever and redness, swelling or soreness at the injection site. These side effects are due to the DPT vaccine, a vaccine usually given in childhood to prevent diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. The chances of side effects increases with each of the five doses administered between the ages of 2 months and 15 years. During the latter doses side effects such as fussiness, tiredness and vomiting can occur. Though the rarest side effects include coma and brain damage, the greater risk is allowing a child to catch diphtheria, pertussis or tetanus.

For infants who receive the DPT vaccine, parents should expect their child to develop a fever, redness and/or soreness at the injection site. As these side effects of the tetanus vaccine are very common, no extra medical attention is required. The side effects resolve themselves within a few hours or one day. Parents can give their children acetaminophen to relieve side effects. Only during the fourth and fifth injection, when the child is between the ages of 12 and 15, do more serious side effects occur.

The side effects of the tetanus vaccine that present after the fourth and fifth injection include fussiness, tiredness/poor appetite, and in roughly 1 out of 50 children, vomiting. These symptoms take one to three days to resolve on their own. Like with the other mild symptoms, no medical attention is necessary. Any number of palliative relief measures can mitigate these side effects until they clear up on their own.

Though not common, seizures, high fever and coma are potential side effects of the tetanus vaccine. The chances of these side effects are very small, somewhere between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 16,000. Nevertheless, parents should know that these side effects occur one to three days after the injection. If symptoms occur, immediate medical attention is necessary to prevent any long-term damage.

Even the worst side effects of the tetanus vaccine do not compare to the suffering inflicted upon children by diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Diphtheria can cause severe nerve damage and kill up to 50% of untreated cases. Generalized tetanus requires four months for a child to undergo a full recovery. Pertussis is highly contagious and can infect parents, leaving them unable to care for their children.

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Discussion Comments
By anon952893 — On May 23, 2014

I had this vaccine and I couldn't even move my arm. When the lady put the needle in my arm, I just felt it going in and then it didn't hurt at all, but when I got home, after a while, I felt as if my shoulder was dead. I had a severe headache and tiredness and also had swelling and some redness, too. I applied ice and it was then a little better.

By Wisedly33 — On Feb 21, 2014

For me, the worst part of a tetanus vaccine was how it burned going in, and then how the injection site would swell. That has happened to me every time I've had a tetanus shot.

I remember having my DPT booster in fourth grade, and they gave them with the gun, which apparently has faded from popularity. I don't know which was worse -- the sore arm from the gun or from the tetanus vaccine itself. Both were painful.

At least tetanus shots are good for 10 years, so I'm not due for another one for a good long while.

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