SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Signs and symptoms of tetanus may appear anytime from a few days to several weeks after tetanus bacteria enter your body through a wound. The average incubation period is seven to eight days.
Common signs and symptoms of tetanus, in order of appearance, are:
- Spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles
- Stiffness of your neck muscles
- Difficulty swallowing
- Stiffness of your abdominal muscles
- Painful body spasms lasting for several minutes, typically triggered by minor occurrences, such as a draft, loud noise, physical touch or light
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
When to see a doctor
See your doctor to obtain a tetanus booster shot if you have a deep or dirty wound and you haven't had a booster shot within the past five years or aren't sure of when your last booster was. Or see your doctor about a tetanus booster for any wound — especially if it may have been contaminated with dirt, animal feces or manure — if you haven't had a booster shot within the past 10 years or aren't sure of when you were last vaccinated.
- Tetanus: Questions and answers. Immunization Action Coalition. http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4220.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Roush SW, et al. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 4th ed. Atlanta, Ga.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt16-tetanus.html. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Tetanus. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec14/ch178/ch178i.html. Accessed Jan. 13, 2013.
- Long SS, et al. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9&isbn=978-1-4377-2702-9&uniqId=399011628-4#4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Prevention and management of wound infection. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/tools/Prevention%20and%20management%20of%20wound%20infection.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis vaccines: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-dtap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Tetanus, diphtheria (Td) or tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-td-tdap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.