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Side Effects of the Tetanus Shot

author image Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Side Effects of the Tetanus Shot
Side Effects of the Tetanus Shot

Tetanus shots are required to help prevent infections from a bacteria, which secretes a toxin that makes the muscles in the body tighten and lock. All infants and children should receive tetanus toxoid as part of their DTaP/Tdap vaccine series. Most adults should receive a booster dose every 10 years, and may also receive a booster shot after a deep puncture wound. Although the tetanus vaccine is designed not to cause any serious disease, some side effects may still occur.

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Localized Reaction

Many people who receive a tetanus shot will experience some pain, swelling and redness around the injection site, notes the Immunization Action Coalition. These symptoms are generally not severe enough to interfere with daily activities and can be relieved using over-the-count pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen. For some patients, the pain and swelling are more severe; however, these effects generally subside after a few days.


The tetanus vaccine can also upset the digestive system. This can result in indigestion, stomach pain, diarrhea and nausea. These gastrointestinal side effects occur in approximately three percent of adolescents and one percent of adults, according to the Center For Disease Control.

Systemic Immune Response

Some of the side effects from a tetanus shot are a result of the activation of the immune system in response to the vaccine. A mild fever is common; some patients may feel fatigued or experience general body or muscle aches, explains the Immunization action Coalition. Less common side effects include swollen lymph nodes, chills and sore joints.

Lingering Pain

In some cases, the tetanus shot can cause a deep aching pain that begins between two days and four weeks after the tetanus shot, states. This pain may be accompanied by wasting of the surrounding muscle. These symptoms may linger for months and are indicative of a serious adverse reaction to the tetanus shot. Patients experiencing pain weeks after the vaccination should contact their doctors.

Allergic Reaction

A tetanus shot can also cause a serious allergic reaction in some patients. Allergic reactions to the tetanus shot can result in swelling of the extremities and of the lips, face and tongue. More severe allergic reactions can result in a rapid heartbeat and swelling of the throat, making breathing and swallowing difficult. Allergic reactions to the tetanus vaccine are medical emergencies that require immediate attention.

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