National support group provides information on tetanus vaccine side effects, including severe & common side effects, prescribing information, and where to find more information.

Tetanus Vaccine Side Effects

The most common side effects of tetanus (lockjaw) vaccines are mild injection-site reactions, but there are also rare reports of severe neurological disorders, seizures, encephalitis, and more.

What are tetanus vaccine names?

How is the tetanus vaccine given?

Tetanus vaccines are given by injection in the thigh of infants and the upper arm of older children and adults. There are 4 different types of tetanus vaccines and they are given at different ages.

All tetanus vaccines are combined with vaccines against other bacterial diseases, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

Infants receive 5 doses of the DTaP tetanus vaccine. Older children and adults receive 1 dose of the Tdap booster shot, typically at age 11 or 12 years old. Tdap is also given to pregnant women in the 3rd trimester. Afterward, adults receive the Td booster shot against tetanus and diphtheria every 10 years.

Can the vaccine cause tetanus?

No. Tetanus vaccines contain modified toxins (tetanospasmin) from the tetanus bacteria, Clostridium tetani. These toxins can’t cause tetanus infections. Instead, they trigger an immune response so the body develops anti-toxins and immunity to tetanus infections.

What are common side effects of the tetanus vaccine?

  • Injection-site pain, redness, swelling, itching
  • Fever
  • Fussiness
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise (general ill feeling)
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness

What are severe side effects of the tetanus vaccine?

  • Allergic reaction
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Brachial neuritis
  • Brain inflammation
  • Collapse or shock-like state
  • Coma
  • Decreased level of consciousness
  • Death
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Extensive swelling
  • Facial palsy
  • Fainting and fall injuries after the shot
  • Febrile seizure (fever causing seizure)
  • Fever over 104ºF
  • Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS)
  • Hypersensitivity (Arthus reaction)
  • Hypotonic-Hyporesponsive Episode (HHE)
  • Latex reaction
  • Muscle pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Progressive neurological disorder
  • Seizures

What other side effects have been reported?

  • Apnea (stop breathing temporarily)
  • Arthus-type hypersensitivity reactions
  • Bronchitis
  • Blood disorders
  • Brain inflammation
  • Cellulitis
  • Cyanosis or “Blue Baby Syndrome”
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear pain
  • Encephalitis
  • Encephalopathy
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • Low blood platelet count
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Unusual crying or screaming

Where can I get more information?

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