Understanding Tetanus -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on March 13, 2021

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 sneering, grinning expression
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • 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.

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


CDC: "Tetanus (Lockjaw) Vaccination."
National Network For Immunization Information: "Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTaP)." 
MedlinePlus: "Tetanus."
National Association for Infectious Diseases: "Tetanus (Lockjaw)."

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