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What are the side effects of the tetanus shot?

By Andy Stergachis, PhD, BPharm Oct 10, 2022 • 4 min

Tetanus is a serious disease that can be prevented by getting the tetanus shot.

There are several different types of vaccines that protect against tetanus, as well as other diseases. These include diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP); diphtheria and tetanus (DT); tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap); and tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccines. Babies and children younger than 7 years old receive DTaP or DT, while older children and adults receive Tdap or Td. The choice of vaccine is made by the provider, based on age and any history of a bad reaction to one or more of the vaccines. Side effects of the tetanus vaccines are possible, but they are normally mild when they do occur. Read on to learn about the side effects of the tetanus shot.

Is the tetanus shot painful?

It is common to experience some pain or discomfort while the tetanus shot is given.

Like other shots, there could be pain, redness or swelling where the tetanus shot was given. Adults normally get a tetanus shot in the shoulder muscle. Children normally get the tetanus shot in the arm or thigh.

What are the side effects of the tetanus shot?

You or your child may have some mild side effects after getting the tetanus shot. The side effects of the tetanus shot are usually mild and go away in a few days. These side effects may include:

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the tetanus shot was given
  • Mild fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness or body ache
  • Feeling tired
  • Upset stomach, throwing up and diarrhea
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Fussing (in children)

It is very rare, but the DTaP shot can cause the following symptoms in children:

  • Seizures
  • Nonstop crying, for 3 hours or more
  • High fever, over 105°F
  • Swelling of the entire arm or leg where the shot was given

Can you get tetanus from the tetanus shot?

No, you cannot get tetanus from the tetanus shot.

Can someone have a reaction from the tetanus shot?

As with any vaccine or medicine, there is a very small chance of a tetanus shot causing a severe allergic reaction or other serious reaction.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness or weakness. An allergic reaction could occur after someone received a shot, then leaves the clinic or pharmacy. If any of these symptoms occur, call 911 and seek immediate emergency care.

Tell your healthcare provider if you or your child have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to the tetanus shot.

Clinically reviewed and updated by Nancy Kupka, PhD, RN, October 2022.

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