How can I Minimize Tetanus Shot Pain?

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  • Written By: Lisa Weber
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 13 February 2019
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Anyone who has stepped on a rusty nail, been bitten by a dog or cut his hand with a knife is likely familiar with receiving a tetanus shot. The tetanus vaccine usually is given to children as part of a series of shots they receive between the ages of 2 months and 6 years of age. Adults should receive a booster shot once every 10 years, but many — fearing tetanus shot pain — often put off getting the vaccine until they really need it. The pain can be alleviated, however, by using pre- and post-vaccine pain relief methods.

Most people tolerate the tetanus immunization without too many side effects, though some people do experience pain from a tetanus shot. Taking a non-aspirin pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, or Tylenol, both before and after receiving the shot will help reduce both pain and fever. Ibuprofen may also be effective. In most people, the pain should subside after a day or two of taking pain-relief medication.

In infants, pain medication may reduce the effectiveness of the tetanus shot. A parent should talk with his or her child's pediatrician before giving a baby such medicine to see if the benefits outweigh the risks. Additionally, a doctor will need to rule out other health issues in young children.


If the site of the tetanus immunization becomes swollen, one trick to reduce tetanus shot pain. is to use ice to help reduce the swelling. Ice can help to numb the site and reduce any inflammation in the area. Place an ice pack at the site or grab a bag of frozen vegetables from your freezer and place that where you received your tetanus shot. You also may want to wet and freeze a clean washcloth or dishrag and place the frozen cloth on the injection site. Apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes several times throughout the day.

After the first 48 hours, using a damp cloth or a heating pad to apply heat to the affected area may be more effective than cold in managing tetanus shot pain. Pain can make it tempting to keep the affected area still. Some of the pain stems from muscle ache, though, so moving or using the arm that has received the tetanus shot may also help to reduce the soreness.

Unfortunately, the best way to get rid of tetanus shot pain is to wait it out. The pain will usually go away on its own after a few days. You should remain proactive while waiting, though. Call your doctor if you develop a high fever; experience hoarseness, wheezing, or difficulty breathing; or if you develop hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness.


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Discuss this Article

Post 4

When I had to get a tetanus shot I found that moving my arm every time it felt sore really helped. I can't explain it. All I know is it worked for me and I wanted to put it out there in hopes it might help someone else.

Post 3

I'm still in pain from a tetanus shot after a month. I will never get another unless I have to.

Post 2

@lovealot - One possible idea is that the tetanus bacteria likes places with lots of oxygen, like deep body tissue. Some of this bacteria might get inside the body if the wound isn't cleaned out in time.

Then when the tetanus vaccine is given, it doesn't kill the bacteria. Instead, lots of antibodies are formed if there is a lot of bacteria still inside. So, this may be what causes such bad pain in some people.

Hope this helps.

Post 1

I don't get it - some people have terrible pain and some have none when they get a tetanus shot. I'm talking about those who get a tetanus shot for an animal bite, or a poke from a rusty nail or a puncture wound. Any ideas?

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