Reactions to Tetanus Shot

The tetanus shot side effects are usually mild, like soreness or mild fever, however, serious side effects are reported in people who are vaccinated.

What are the reactions to tetanus shot?

Suffering a reaction to tetanus shot is common. Mild side effects are very common, with around one in four children experiencing them.

Possible side effects include:

  • mild fever
  • swelling and/or redness at the injection site
  • tenderness or soreness at the injection site
  • fussiness in infants
  • Inconsolable crying for extended periods
  • Seizure
  • High fever (temperatures greater than 101 F)

Serious Side Effects of Tetanus Shot

Preventing tetanus does not come without risk. Our vaccine injury lawyers at Sadaka Law have recovered settlements for the following injuries from the tetanus vaccine:

ADEM (Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis)

ADEM, or acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, is another syndrome affecting the nervous system. This one generally comes on slower, with up to a month between the vaccination and first symptoms. Early symptoms, including loss of vision, paralysis and loss of gross motor coordination, are caused by chronic inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. ADEM may also cause loss of attention, autism-like symptoms and other behavioral changes.

Dig a little deeper on DTaP vaccine or Tdap vaccine related ADEM

Anaphylaxis occurring within 4 hours

Anaphylaxis is an acute, severe, and potentially lethal systemic reaction. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis after the tetanus vaccine begin minutes to a few hours after injection. If you had an allergic reaction to a previous tetanus vaccine then the side effect could be deadly.

Symptoms include looking blue (cyanosis), dizziness or fainting due to low blood pressure (hypotension), an abnormal heart rate, and breathing problems. Death usually results from a lack of air.

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Brachial Neuritis / Brachial Plexus / Parsonage Turner Syndrome

Brachial neuritis is a condition that comes from damage to the nerves in your brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a bunch of nerves in the shoulder that carries movement and sensory signals from the spinal cord to the arms and hands. Brachial neuritis is thought to be caused by an attack by the body’s immune system.

Brachial neuritis is a known side effect of tetanus vaccine. Symptoms usually begin 2 to 28 days from the time of the tetanus shot. Brachial neuritis starts with severe pain followed by weakness that could lead to muscle wasting. A common disfigurement associated with brachial neuritis is called scapular winging, which a deformity of the shoulder blades.

What is muscle wasting from the tetanus shot?

Muscle wasting from tetanus shot is usually caused by brachial neuritis. Brachial neuritis is the loss of muscle tissue due to damage to the nerves that supply the muscles. This can lead to weakness and atrophy (shrinking) of the affected muscles. Treatment typically focuses on relieving symptoms and preserving function. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerves or to release muscles that have become tightened or frozen in place.

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Encephalopathy or Encephalitis

Both encephalopathy and encephalitis are disturbances in brain function that affects how the body functions. Encephalopathy is a term that is used to describe a drastic change in brain function. Like seizure can be type of encephalopathy. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain that cause drastic change in brain function.

Tetanus shot related encephalopathy starts within 72 hours of injection. The major symptom is a significant change in mental status that is not medication related, like a psychosis. In children it could be a significantly decreased level of consciousness. A seizure could be considered encephalopathy.

Does the tetanus vaccine cause seizures?

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program recognizes that the tetanus vaccine can cause seizures within 72-hours of administration.

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre syndrome is another rare but proven side effect that attacks the nervous system. Weakness may be followed by loss of reflexes or paralysis. Low blood pressure and vision loss are also common with this incurable disease. Any mild reaction to tetanus shot associated with these more severe ones should be brought to a doctor’s attention immediately.

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Shoulder injury as a result of vaccine administration (SIRVA)

Shoulder injury as a result of vaccine administration is by far the most common adverse reaction to all vaccines, including tetanus. SIRVA’s are caused when the person received their tetanus vaccine too high in the shoulder. The contents of the vaccine are injected into the space underneath the deltoid called the subdeltoid bursa. This causes an immense amount of pain and limited range of motion. Onset of symptoms occurs within 48 hours after injection.

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Vasovagal Syncope

Vasovagal syncope is a temporary loss of consciousness caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. Syncope, or fainting, is a known side effect of vaccines, including the tetanus vaccine. The symptoms usually begin within 1 hour of administration.

What is the tetanus vaccine?

Tetanus is a serious disease and the tetanus vaccine prevents it. Tetanus shots using come bundled together with pertussis and diphtheria in one vaccine, i.e. DTaP or Tdap.

The tetanus portion of the vaccine protects against the poison created by the infection of bacteria called Clostridium tetani. The tetanus bacteria produces a poison or toxin that causes seizures, and a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock, otherwise known as “lockjaw”. Lockjaw can make it hard to open the mouth or swallow. The tetanus vaccine portion contains the tetanus toxoid, which is an inactivated version of the poison released by the bacteria.

The pertussis portion of the vaccine is what is commonly known as the whooping cough vaccine. Whooping cough is a highly contagious infection focused in the lungs caused by the bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The cough is violent and rapid until there is no more air in your lungs. The pertussis portion contains only part of the bacteria instead of the whole bacteria.

Diphtheria is a very dangerous disease and is caused by a bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is deadly in 10% of the cases, and affects the nervous system. It is not easily curable.

Redesign of the Pertussis Vaccine

The whooping cough vaccination changed designs once it was was realized the type of pertussis manufacturers were using was causing serious injury. The manufacturers redesigned the pertussis portion in an effort to reduce serious side effects associated with whole cell pertussis. The new, redesigned product is called acellular pertussis vaccine.

So you will commonly see diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccines known as DTaP* (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) or Tdap* (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis), and the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine is generally not available.

*The capitals in the names of the vaccines represent the dose of the particular component. So, a capital T means that there is a higher does of Tetanus than diphtheria and acellular pertussis in a Tdap vaccine.

What are the types of tetanus vaccines available?

DT, Td provides protection against diphtheria and tetanus.

DTaP and Tdap provides protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

Reactions sometimes include allergic reactions. Reactions to tetanus shot can also take place after a booster injection, a point that is often missed in research studies and news reports.

Who should avoid getting the tetanus vaccine?

You should not administer diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines to:

  1. Patients who have had a severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous dose
  2. A person who has a severe allergy to any vaccine component
  3. Patients who developed encephalopathy within 7 days of administration of a previous dose of DTP, DTaP, or Tdap

When should you get the tetanus shot?

The tetanus vaccine is a part of the childhood vaccine schedule that is published by a committee from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The schedule has four injections that are given between 2 months and 4-6 years old. A booster is then given at 11-12 years old. Adults usually have the option to get one booster every ten years.

The CDC recommends tetanus vaccines at the following ages:

  • 1 tetanus shot at 2 months of age
  • 1 at 4 months of age
  • 1 at 6 months of age
  • A booster shot at ages 15 through 18 months of age
  • Another tetanus booster at ages 4 through 6 years of age

The CDC recommends diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccination often. Besides infants and children, the CDC recommends that

  • Teenagers be given a single dose of Tdap vaccine.
  • Pregnant women a single dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, preferably during the early part of gestational weeks 27 through 36.
  • Adults that need a booster.

If you were injured by a tetanus shot, a compensation program exists to help. It is called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and it is run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dig a little deeper into the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

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