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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.


Seek care immediately if:

  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • 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.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • 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:

  • Get the tetanus vaccine as directed. The tetanus vaccine is given to children in several doses. A booster dose is given to adults every 10 years. A tetanus infection will not make you immune from the tetanus toxin. You will need a dose after you have a wound if you did not get a booster in the past 5 years. If you are pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about the vaccine. It is given during the second half of pregnancy to prevent tetanus from passing to the baby during birth.
  • 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

Further information

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

Learn more about Tetanus (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference