What are Common Tetanus Shot Reactions?

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  • Written By: Angela Crout-Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2018
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There are several types of tetanus shot reactions that can occur, though adverse side effect only affect less than 1% of the people vaccinated every year. The tetanus immunization is administered to prevent infection from bacterial spores often found in dirt, feces, dust, and even in sterile environments like hospital rooms. Puncture wounds are well known areas of infection for many people, and many are advised to receive the shot after these injuries occur. The side effects of the tetanus vaccine typically fall into three categories; mild, moderate, and severe. The mild effects can generally be treated with an over the counter pain medication and careful treatment, though the more severe reactions will likely require medical intervention.

Mild forms of the tetanus shot reactions include muscle and skin soreness at the injection site, headache, and light nausea. Some people may also experience a low grade fever as well as an overall feeling of fatigue in the hours and days following the injection. In most situations, these symptoms aren't considered medically dangerous and the patient can usually manage to control the symptoms on their own. Rest, along with the use of an over the counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication, is typically sufficient. Swelling at the injection site can be managed with an ice pack applied as needed.


Moderate tetanus shot reactions include more severe symptoms, including a high grade fever and vomiting. In most cases, the symptoms will resolve themselves without treatment, but many doctors will recommend using fever reducing medications to control the fever. Nausea and vomiting can be treated with over the counter remedies or with natural options such as ginger and mint. If the symptoms persist, seeking medical care is encouraged.

The most severe tetanus shot reactions include difficulty breathing, wheezing, and other flu like symptoms. In these cases, it is important to seek medical attention, though it is likely the reactions will pass without permanent harm in 2 to 5 days. If symptoms persist, severe reactions may also manifest in convulsions, seizures, and brain damage when not treated quickly.

In the vast majority of tetanus vaccine injections, the patient experiences very few, if any, adverse side effects. The medical community continues to recommend booster shots of this vaccine every 10 years for children and as needed for adults. It is also suggested that patients immediately seek medical assistance if any dangerous symptoms manifest shortly after the injection is given.



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Post 2

Last tetanus shot I got was in the arm, and I was so sore I couldn't raise my arm for a couple of days. Driving was a pain when I made a turn and had to use my left arm.

I also had some pretty significant nausea. I felt sick for two or three days and lived on ginger ale, chicken soup and crackers. All that because I stepped on a piece of glass from a broken measuring cup. My doctor wanted to see my foot since it was so sore, and I ended up with the tetanus shot. Geez. Could have done without that!

Post 1

The last tetanus shot I got was in the buttocks, and not only did it sting like a yellowjacket, but that side was so sore I couldn't sit down! Driving home was torment. I lay on my side or stomach the rest of the day, but work the next day was torment. I couldn't get comfortable at my desk. I was absolutely miserable.

I called the doctor's office and they just said to take some NSAID pain relievers to reduce the inflammation and basically, deal with it. I guess that's all they could do, but I would have loved something to relieve the soreness. I was hurting.

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