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Understanding Tetanus -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Tetanus?

You should suspect tetanus if a cut or wound is followed by one or more of these symptoms:

  • Stiffness of the neck, jaw, and other muscles, often accompanied by a grotesque, grinning expression
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irritability
  • Uncontrollable spasms of the jaw, called lockjaw, and neck muscles
  • Painful, involuntary contraction of other muscles

In some cases, symptoms will develop in the absence of any cut or wound that you can recall.  In addition, you may notice restlessness, lack of appetite, and drooling.

Recommended Related to Children's Vaccines

Helping Kids Who Fear Vaccines

When your young child whimpers at the mention of the word "shot," you probably have mixed feelings. You want your son to be protected by his vaccinations; you just wish that the procedure was pain-free. "Vaccines protect the health and well-being of children, but children don't understand that," says Deborah Wexler, MD, executive director of the Immunization Action Coalition, a national organization based in St. Paul, Minn. "It can be really hard for them to come in for their shots." Fortunately,...

Read the Helping Kids Who Fear Vaccines article > >

 

Call Your Doctor About Tetanus If:

You are bitten by an animal or wounded by an object that might be contaminated with dirt, feces, or dust, and you have not been immunized against tetanus or received a booster within the last five years. Tetanus infection can be fatal and should be treated as soon as possible.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on March 12, 2014

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