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What Are the Most Common Tetanus Shot Complications?

A cold compress, applied to the injection site, offers relief from the pain of a tetanus shot.
A syringe and two vials of tetanus vaccine.
Some people who receive a tetanus shot experience a low-grade fever of short duration.
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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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A tetanus shot is a vaccination given to prevent an infection from the clostridium tetani bacteria, but like any vaccine, there are sometimes complications. Pain and tenderness, especially around the injection site, is among the most common tetanus shot complications. Numbness, inflammation, fatigue, and headache are other common complications of a tetanus shot. In a few cases, a mild fever or gastrointestinal problems may also occur, especially in younger patients.

Tetanus shots often cause pain, tenderness, or discomfort. This occurs in most people who get a tetanus vaccine or a tetanus booster. The pain usually occurs on and around the injection site. It can also occur in the shoulders, the neck, and around the spine. If this pain worsens or does not go away within a few days, medical attention is usually required.

Instead of pain, some individuals may feel a numbness around the injection site. This usually occurs within a few minutes after this shot is administered. Numbness usually happens less often than pain, but it is still considered to be a tetanus shot complication.

Besides pain, other signs of inflammation may also occur. Redness and swelling, for instance, are also common tetanus shot complications. Like pain, these will usually go away within a few days. These side effects can usually be relieved with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or a cold compress.

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Fatigue and headaches are two more common complications of the tetanus shot. These complications are usually mild. Like the other complications, they should only last a few days. If these side effects persist or are severe, medical attention is usually required.

Fever may also be a tetanus complication. This only happens to some patients and, it is usually a very low, mild fever. Roughly a quarter of all children who get a tetanus shot, for example, will get a fever.

Gastrointestinal problems are also considered to be tetanus shot complications. These can include nausea, diarrhea, and indigestion. These side effects, however, are generally uncommon.

Although it is rare, more serious tetanus shot complications can also occur. An allergic reaction to the shot is a good example of this, and it can lead to serious medical complications. After a tetanus shot, if an individual experiences a skin rash, hives, itching, or swelling of the face or lips, he should seek immediate medical attention. In more serious cases, the throat may start to swell. This can lead to asphyxiation, and possibly death.

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