Do Tetanus Shots Hurt?

Tetanus is a serious disease characterized by painful spasms of the muscles. Nerves that carry motor information to the muscles are exclusively affected by this infection. Its causative organism is classified as Clostridium tetani. The bacteria infect the human body through deep cuts or wound punctured by contaminated needles, nails, tools and animal or insect bites. Tetanus vaccine shots can prevent the infection. It is formed of dormant tetanus bacteria that lead to the generation of antibodies against tetanus in the body. Tetanus booster shots are recommended for its repetition in every decade of life.

Do Tetanus Shots Hurt?

Tetanus shots are painful when injected into the body. It hurts because the nature of the bacteria is acidic. The concentration of the shot also causes pain in the muscle in the injecting site. The residual pain may remain for days or even weeks. Some people may experience numbness in the injected arm after a few minutes of injection. This is often accompanied by radiating pain from the injected site to arms, neck, and back. Some people feel general fatigue and weakness in the muscle due to the tetanus shots. Doctors may prescribe OTC painkillers like ibuprofen or Motrin to reduce pain for a couple of days. Some people complain of allergic reactions i.e. hives and rashes on the body with excessive weakness after tetanus booster shots.

In common practice, nurses warm up the tetanus vaccine by their hands before administration of the shot. But recent studies reveal that the temperature of the tetanus vaccine has no impact on the level of the pain or duration of the adverse effects of the shot felt by patients.

In the past, annual tetanus booster shots were recommended for everyone. Nowadays, the gap between the booster shot is increased and it is recommended to have booster shots in every decade for protection against the infection.

Clostridium tetani

Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection which is characterized by spasms and stiffness in the muscles. It is caused by bacteria named Clostridium tetani. It is also called lockjaw as it leads to the spasm of the muscles of the jaw. The bacterial spores grow in the open deep wounds and cut punctured by infected nails, knives, tools, pointed and non-sterile instruments. The bacteria can grow in the deep wound because it thrives in anaerobic conditions where there is very little oxygen. The bacteria interfere with the nervous system by blocking the supply of nerves to the muscles. This may result in stiffness and spasm of the muscles.

The early symptoms of tetanus are fever, headache, and diarrhea. It can develop in any person at any age. Newborn infants are at highest risk of contracting the infection. The incubation period of Clostridium tetani is 3-21 days. It causes contraction of muscles of the jaw, throat, chest, and back. In severe infections, the contractions result in arching of the spine.

The other symptoms of tetanus are-

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Sweating
  • Increase in heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Bloody stools
  • Sore throat
  • Sensitivity to touch

Treatment measures of tetanus are available in the medical world. But they are not a cure. As the infection has serious consequences on the body, it is better to prevent them from occurring.

Tetanus shots are available for this purpose. It comprises of dormant or dead tetanus bacteria in small quantities. They are injected in the muscular regions like thigh or arm. They strengthen the immune system of the body by the generation of antibodies against the bacteria. Tetanus toxoid is the most common tetanus vaccine.


Tetanus is a serious infectious disease that can cause life-threatening. It occurs due to the infection of bacteria in the open, deep puncture wounds or cuts. Tetanus shots are given to prevent the infection. It hurts a lot during injection. Pain, allergy, and numbness can appear due to the injection for a few days or weeks.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 1, 2018

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