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Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria are usually found in soil, dust, and the bowel movements of some animals and humans. The bacteria produce a toxin that damages nerves. This causes severe muscle spasms.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your heartbeat is very fast or not regular.
  • You have muscle spasms in your face.
  • You start to feel muscle cramps or spasms near a wound.
  • You have a wound that is large or cannot be cleaned.
  • You have an open wound or a puncture wound.
  • You do not know if your tetanus vaccines are current.
  • You need a tetanus booster shot.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to stop or prevent seizures and muscle spasms. You may also need prescription pain medicine. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent tetanus:

  • Clean every wound immediately. Apply pressure to the wound to stop any bleeding. Clean the wound with soap and water. Remove dirt or other objects from the wound. Cover the wound with a clean bandage. Change the bandage every day and if it gets wet or dirty.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccines. A tetanus infection does not make you immune from another infection. The DTaP, Tdap, and Td vaccines help protect against tetanus. Your provider can recommend the vaccines that are right for you based on your age and health. The Td vaccine is usually given every 10 years. You will also need Td after a wound if you did not get a booster in the past 5 years. Pregnant women should get 1 dose of Tdap with each pregnancy, during weeks 27 to 36.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Tetanus (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.