Tetanus Shot Side Effects

Tetanus is a medical condition that is very dangerous and one that can often prove to be fatal. The main manifestation of the disease is through muscle spasms which can occur thanks to a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin which is produced by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. The toxin can enter the body through a deep wound which is usually caused by something sharp and rusty.

Most people associate this disease with rust. That is why when someone pricks their finger on a rusty nail or a rusty saw blade they go and get a tetanus shot. It is not guaranteed that you will be infected in every instance when you prick yourself on a nail. However, seeing as how the condition has an 11% mortality rate which is most frequent among those that do not get the vaccine, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Even though most people think that they can get tetanus only from a rusty nail, that is not really the case. The rust simply provides a proper situation for the bacteria to develop and the nail is a good way for the toxin to get into the human body. However, this does not mean that there are not other ways in which you can get infected with tetanus. If you are infected it can take a long time for symptoms to present themselves, taking anywhere from 8 days to a few months. It basically depends on how far from the central nervous system the toxin has entered the body.

Side Effects of the Tetanus Shot

Even though tetanus can be a very dangerous medical condition, it has a vaccine that is readily available in most parts of the world. Like any other vaccine, this one is prone to side effects. In fact, some minor side effects are common in almost all of the people that get the shot. However, most of them are not dangerous and disappear after a few days. In rare cases there can be severe reactions to the vaccine that can be life threatening. However, this does not happen often so the risk of possibly staying infected far outweighs the risk of getting the shot.

The most common side effect is a general pain in the area where the patient has been injected with the vaccine. According to studies, this side effect is present in 75% of all people that get the shot. However, although this side effect is frequent it is not a dangerous one. The pain is noticeable, but very manageable and will disappear in a few days, sometimes even sooner. There is no need to consult a doctor in these cases. Besides pain most patients will feel numbness in their arm shortly after the injection was made. Others complain that the area where the shot was given feels hard like marble. These are both common symptoms and are usually treated with painkillers.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of other side effects that people who have been injected with the vaccine have experienced. Other mild side effects reported include nausea, headaches, vomiting, swelling, redness, mild body chills and low grade fevers. These symptoms are not as common as the general pain, but they do happen with a regular frequency. However, none of them are dangerous and they generally go away after a few days. There still is no need to go running to the emergency room just yet.

Most of the side effects usually go away by themselves after a few days. However, in rare cases some of them might stick around for a little while longer. These more dangerous side effects include prolonged vomiting, prolonged diarrhea and general flu like symptoms. If any of these side effects are still kicking your butt after a week then you should consult with a doctor as you might be one of the unlucky patients that suffer from the rare side effects of the tetanus vaccine. However, like previously mentioned this happens very scarcely. Usually less than one percent of the people that get the shot suffer from these symptoms. If you are one of them, try to look on the bright side: at least you are special.

Rare But Dangerous Side Effects

There are even more dangerous side effects, but these are extremely rare. Some people have experienced seizures after getting the vaccine injection. Other suffered from brain damage or they fell into a coma.

The unluckiest of patients can have severe allergic reactions to the vaccine. If you notice a rash or swelling around the injection area you should contact a doctor as soon as possible as those are not regular side effects of the vaccine and are indicative of an allergic reaction. Other signs of a bad reaction towards the shot include itchiness, dizziness, wheezing and difficulties with breathing. In some cases people with an allergic reaction can collapse or convulse. But, again, this only happens in very rare cases.

Tetanus Shot Side Effects in Children

Children have a predisposition to play with sharp, metal objects and a little negligence on their part will always lead to a cut or a wound. This will require a tetanus shot, just to be on the safe side. Other parents choose to vaccinate their kids without the immediate in an attempt to prevent future problems. This is ok, as the medical vaccine usually lasts around 10 years. Actually, the effect is permanent, but it starts to lose its potency after a while. The vaccine does not actually treat the medical condition directly. It provides the patient with the antibodies needed to fight off the effects of the neurotoxin.

Whether you are giving your child a shot because he cut himself on a rusty nail while playing hide and seek or you are just doing it to be on the safe side, you need to monitor the child carefully to watch out for any potential side effects. If the child is too young to speak then pay attention to an abnormal amount of crying which will indicate that he is suffering from pain from the injection. Check the area frequently to see if any of the symptoms of an allergic reaction are manifesting. Unfortunately, there are some side effects that are most likely unavoidable so the child will just have to tough it out for a few days until they should disappear.

The shot given to children is slightly different from the one given to adults. It usually comes with a vaccine for diphtheria as well as one for pertussis. These three shots have similar side effects. An extra one that will most likely be present in children but not in adults is the lack of an appetite.

Treating the Side Effects

In most cases, the side effects do not require any form of treatment. The most common symptoms go away by themselves after a few days. The patient just needs to be tough and resilient. Some of the discomforts can be alleviated with the use of painkillers.

However, if you turn out to be the unlucky one in a hundred people that gets the more serious side effects then you should go check with a doctor as soon as possible to see what kind of treatment options you have.


  1. I was given my tetanus shot more than a week ago and a large, hard swelling (about an inch and a half across) has just appeared. Is that usual?

  2. This site was useful except my problem not listed

  3. Very interesting data however, is there a time, as we age, and lead mostly a sedentary lifestye (85), when the bad side effects outweigh our quality of life? Is having supposed up to date immunity of true value under those conditions?

    Thank you!

  4. I had all the flu symptoms after my shot and spent 36 hours in bed… I still feel the weak 2 days later… your article is right on… I will be calling the doctor today to see if I need to do anything else.


  5. It was very easy to find and I like that instead of going from one site to another. Thank u!

  6. Great article, really helped!

  7. This is the best article to date that I have read!

  8. Thank you for your posts and sharing. However, I would like to share with you my side effects after being vaccinated with tetanus about three weeks ago. I must say that these three weeks are the worst of my life. My arm hurts so badly and my all my fingers are named. I am taking Ibuprofen, Alive and aspirin and still hurts as hell. I am not sure what is wrong but I think these are more severe side effects. I did some research and found out that this could be anaphylactic reactions, Guillain-Barre' Syndrome, and brachial neuritis. I do not wish anyone to feel the same pain as I feel for the past three weeks.

  9. The thing that worries me is the swelling and the itch that is driving me crazy around the shot site!!


  10. The article answered all my concerns and described all of the symptoms and now I have peace of mind. My fears were alleviated.

  11. My husband received the shot and within 20 days was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. This then turned into the chronic form called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. This will be an ongoing problem for the rest of his life. IV immune globulin infusions 5 days every month and the physical disabilities that go along with it. More should be told about how serious the risk can be.

  12. My concern regards a completely symptomless vaccine, ie, no pain, no swelling, no stiffness, nothing. Absolutely nothing. I'm normally extremely hypersensitive to drugs and chemicals, so not having any indication of having had a tetanus shot from the initial shot to 24 hrs. later has me worried that either the nurse stuck the needle in but didn't plunge, or that the vaccine was a dud. I will contact the clinic but I'm certain they won't do anything except, at best, note the call. I went in as a result of accidentally cutting my finger with a dirty garden clipper. So, knowing that the vaccine was effective is imperative and time sensitive for me right now.

  13. My fiancé received the tetanus shot 6 days ago. Since then he has developed a mild fever, hives that come and go all over the body, excruciating muscle and joint pain that began in his thighs then up both of his arms, back, and neck. The doctor we saw refused to believe the symptoms are adverse reactions to the shot despite that all these occurred within a day after receiving it. He prescribed Benadryl for the hives and Tylenol for the pain. He is feeling some pain relief but hives still come back from head to legs. We regret that we let the doctor administer the shot, he did not tell us any complications that may occur. I wish more doctors are educated on adverse reactions to vaccines so that patients who are experiencing these reactions can be taken more seriously and diagnosed sooner rather than too late. I hope my fiancé recovers soon and will not develop any more reactions.

  14. Thank you for ease of finding & reading side effects of the tetanus shot. I had my shot yesterday and I remember having the large marble knot with arm soreness from previous injections. What I don’t remember is the “flu like” symptoms that are occurring. Maybe it is because I am older now (in 50’s). Mine is mostly body aches. I don’t have a fever, but I am sluggish. I just want to get in bed and rest. I will tough it out.

  15. I had my tetanus booster 5 days ago, and am also experiencing the aches and overall tiredness – and I am in my early 50’s now. Interesting how much worse it hits us as we age. I do feel less concerned after reading this entry and the comments. If I don’t buck up in a few more days I’ll check with my GP’s office at that time.

    1. Danielle Borderieux

      I am having the same problem. I’m in my late 40’s. Last tetanus shot was 20 years ago and I don’t remember feeling this weak and sluggish. My head hurts too.

  16. Had my shot 4 days ago – first 24 hours I was fine, it’s been sluggish ever since – feel weak and want to do nothing but sleep. I hate this…

  17. I lost my voice after getting a tetanus shot… is this one of the side effects also?

  18. Go a tetanus shot on the 27th of July and 2 days later I got severe muscle pain in that arm and it went up to my shoulder and upper back and neck. It is severe pain, all the time, 24 hours a day. My muscles hurt there so bad. Taken 1000 mg of Tylenol and then later 800 mg Ibuprofen neither do anything for the pain. Tried Muscle relaxers and no help either. I wish I never got the shot.

  19. I certainly wouldn’t call people that are seriously hurt from a vaccine special. I call them victims. I went through serious misery after I was talked into getting a Tetanus shot. I have now been through many weeks of pure hell. I have now needed on two rounds of muscle relaxer due to the pain from seriously knotted up muscles in the shoulder and arm. Now I am dealing with numbness and tingling in my arm, hand and three fingers. I was healthy when I went to the doctor for my yearly checkup. I ended up thinking I may die. The side effects from that shot are horrifying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recommended Articles