Tetanus, commonly known as Lockjaw, is rare in the United States, with less than 50 cases reported annually. It is much more common in undeveloped areas of the world, with an average of 1 million cases occurring annually worldwide. Though rare in the United States, it is a serious disease that affects the nerves and muscles.


Tetanus is a disease caused by infection with Clostridium tetani, a dangerous bacterium that is present in soil and feces. Infection with the bacteria leads to the development of dangerous neurotoxin, known as tetanospasmin, that can spread throughout the entire body and cause widespread general muscle spasms. The disease can inhibit the ability to breathe and can be life-threatening. It is commonly referred to as Lockjaw because it often targets the muscles of the jaw and neck, making it difficult or impossible to open the jaw, swallow and breathe.


The symptoms of tetanus vary depending on the severity of the infection. The response to infection from the bacteria varies, and symptoms may occur anywhere from two days after exposure to up to four weeks. On average, the incubation period for tetanus is generally one week. The most common symptoms of tetanus are:

Muscle stiffness in the jaw

Muscle spasms in the jaw

Stiff neck muscles

Difficulty swallowing

Stiff abdominal muscles

Body spasms, often painful, lasting for several minutes

Other less common symptoms that may or may not occur with tetanus include:


Increase in blood pressure


Elevated heart rate

If you develop any of these symptoms after experiencing a wound, especially one that may have been contaminated with dirt, soil, feces or saliva, it is important that you contact your physician immediately. This is especially important if you are not up to date with your tetanus shots or if you are unsure of your tetanus vaccination status.


The majority of cases of tetanus in the United States occur as a result of a cut or deep puncture wound that becomes contaminated with the tetanus bacteria. Occasionally, an individual with a tiny cut that is not noticeable can still go on to develop tetanus. However, the majority of cases of tetanus that occur in the United States are the result of a wound that is deep or dirty, or a burn, a crushing injury, gangrene or frostbite. Punctures to the skin that occur from non-sterile needles such as those used for body piercings, tattoos and drug use are also susceptible to tetanus.

When the tetanus bacteria enters the wound, the spores from the bacteria travel through the bloodstream and invade the motor neurons throughout the body. They impair the ability of the nerves to function properly, making them unable to control the muscles. The result is muscle spasms and muscle stiffness.


In order for the tetanus bacteria to enter into the bloodstream, conditions have to be just right. There are certain risk factors that can contribute to the development of tetanus. They include:

Not being immunized against tetanus

An injury that penetrates the skin and introduces tetanus into the body through the wound

Other infective bacteria present at the wound site

Injury to body tissues

Introduction into the body of a foreign substance, such as a splinter or nail

Swelling around the wound

Although tetanus can develop as a result of many different kinds of injuries, the following are the most common ways that tetanus occurs in the United States:

Puncture wounds

Body piercings, tattoos and IV drugs with unsanitary needles

Gunshot wounds

Compound fractures

·Crushing injuries


Surgical wounds

Ear infections

Dental infections

Animal bites

Foot ulcers in diabetics that become infected (see: Diabetic Foot Pain And Complications)

Umbilical cord stumps in newborns that become infected

Delialah Falcon


The bacteria causing tetanus can enter the body through an open wound or cracked skin. Hence it is recommended to take the tetanus shot after the stipulated time intervals. However it is good to know theside effects of the tetanus vaccine before taking the injection.

The most common complaint people have after a tetanus vaccine is the pain felt in the region. This should subside within a day or two and if not then it is advisable to consult the doctor. A feeling of numbness is another effect of this vaccine that also results in pain in the neck and shoulders.

A feeling of tiredness, head pain and vomiting are some other tetanus shot side effects. These usually subside within two days but may need medical intervention if these persist for a longer time. A little rise in the body temperature and mild body chills are also common after a tetanus shot.

In some individuals, tetanus shot may result in diarrhea and a pain in the stomach. A few children may become very fussy and cranky and may lose their appetites after a tetanus shot. The children may also suffer from a high fever as a tetanus shot side effect.

There are many uncommon symptoms of a tetanus shot. These include, skin rashes, hives, allergic reactions, swelling of the eyes or face and difficulty in swallowing. A tetanus vaccine may also cause some long term side effects but these are very rare.

Permanent brain damage or coma may also be caused by a tetanus injection. Seizures, breathing difficulties and a swelling in the sweat glands in the arm pits are some other severe side effects of a tetanus shot.

Most of the common tetanus shot side effects should subside within five days. In the event that these last longer, the individuals should consult their physicians for medical intervention.

Permanent brain damage or coma may also be caused by a tetanus injection. Seizures, breathing difficulties and a swelling in the sweat glands in the arm pits are some other severe side effects of a tetanus shot.



Tetanus Vaccine Facts


sodium phosphate, peptone, bovine extract (U.S. sourced), formaldehyde,

ammonium sulfate, , aluminum potassium sulfate, thimerosal (trace),

gelatin, polysorbate 80 (Tween 80), modified Mueller and Miller medium,

modified Stainer-Scholte medium

Thimerosal has been linked the permanent brain damage even in small doses. 

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Tetanus has shown a fatality of about 10% in reported cases. Although this number is considered high, if you remember from my story, I was told I was going to die in 3 days had I not taken the vaccine. While I knew he was most likely using fear tactics, many people would have simply opted in at this point.

Joe Martino