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What Are the Most Common Tetanus Shot Reactions?

By Natalie M. Smith
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A tetanus shot is a common vaccination given to individuals beginning when they are babies and continuing in regular intervals throughout their lifetime. Most individuals who receive a tetanus vaccination experience mild tetanus shot reactions. Common ones include fever, tiredness, and pain at the injection site. Doctors assert that, since many people who get tetanus will die from it, the risks associated with contracting tetanus far outweigh the potential side effects of a tetanus shot.

Immunizations for tetanus are given in combination with other vaccines in early childhood, and usually at specific times during the lifespan. Children receive a diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine at two-, four-, and six-months of age, and again at 15- and 18-months, with their final booster shots being between the ages of four and six. Preteens receive a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, also known as a tetanus booster shot. Every 10 years, adults should receive a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine, which is also a tetanus booster. Each of these combination immunizations presents its own host of tetanus shot reactions.

Only mild tetanus shot reactions are common after receiving a DTaP vaccine. These include fever, swelling, redness, or pain at the injection site. For each of these symptoms, about 25% of all children are affected, though one-third of children are known to exhibit fussiness. Doctors sometimes suggest giving the child a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen about a half-an-hour before the injection in order to help with the pain.

Of the side effects experienced, the amount of people affected varies as the Td vaccine causes pain in nearly all adults, even more so than the Tdap. About 75% of children and most adults who receive a Tdap vaccine experience mild pain. Mild tiredness and headaches are less common than pain, but still affect at least 25% of children and adults. Around 20% of patients have redness or swelling. A little more than 30% of Td recipients experience redness or swelling.

Tetanus is a noncontagious nerve disease caused by Clostridium tetani bacterium. If the bacterium gets under the skin, it can produce a deadly toxin called tetanospasmin. Surprisingly, even with medical advancements, almost one-third of tetanus patients die. Considering that so few patients experience adverse tetanus shot reactions, that vaccines are readily available, and that all vaccines require years of research and must be deemed safe and effective prior to use, doctors recommend vaccinations for nearly everyone. Patients who have experienced life-threatening tetanus shot reactions in the past, however, as well as those with certain severe health conditions, might be prohibited from getting a tetanus vaccination.

Doctors also recommend that any individuals who do experience moderate or severe tetanus shot reactions seek medical help immediately. Symptoms include high fever, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. Vaccine researchers also recommend that patients who experience moderate or severe symptoms report the symptoms to the appropriate government agency that keeps record of health statistics after seeking medical treatment.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1000845 — On Jan 10, 2019

Same. I had a fever of 102.7° and same experience overall.

By anon242636 — On Jan 24, 2012

The tetanus shot I received recently led to an arm that felt like someone took boxing gloves to the entire arm and it consistently remained sore for more than a week. Following that, deep muscle tissue in my legs (front of thighs) became sore close to the bone. My hands also lost strength and became weak. I found it extremely hard to open a jar. My neck became sore and I couldn't move my head well, and it also made crunching sounds when turning it. This was followed by a numbness in my skull like a crown or like wearing a cap with blurry vision and muscles spasms throughout my body.

Do I think vaccines are safe? Hell, no! Not after that treat!

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