People who get tetanus shots at least once every 10 years often experience fatigue after the shot. This is normal and often goes away over time.
However, if you feel very tired after a tetanus shot, you should talk to your doctor.
You may be experiencing a reaction to the tetanus vaccine. Your doctor may recommend other types of shots or a different vaccine.
If you have an allergy to any part of the tetanus vaccine, your doctor may switch you to a different type of vaccine.
What do the symptoms mean?
The symptoms of tetanus vary depending on where in the body you get the shot.
Common symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
More severe symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Trouble talking or swallowing
- Difficulty urinating
The symptoms of tetanus may look like other health conditions or problems. Always see your doctor for a diagnosis.
How is tetanus diagnosed?
To diagnose tetanus, your doctor will review your symptoms and health history. They’ll also order a series of tests.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and when they started and if you’ve had any recent exposures, such as:
- Contact with animals or farm animals
- Contact with soil or water
- Exposure to a bug bite
- A cut, abrasion, or burn
The doctor will also ask about any recent vaccinations.
They may also ask about any medical conditions you may have.
Tests can include:
- Blood tests to check for antibodies
- Chest X-rays
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Spinal tap
How is tetanus treated?
Treatment for tetanus depends on your symptoms and the severity of your infection.
If your symptoms are mild, your doctor may recommend:
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- Taking an anti-inflammatory drug
- Icing the affected area
- Applying a heating pad
In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids.
Your doctor may also recommend antibiotics or a tetanus vaccine.
It may take several weeks to months to fully recover from tetanus.
When can I return to work?
If you’ve been exposed to tetanus and your symptoms are mild, you may be able to return to work after receiving treatment.
For severe symptoms, you may need to rest for several weeks and receive a tetanus vaccine.
If you’ve been exposed to tetanus and have mild symptoms, your return to work may be delayed until your symptoms are in the past and your immunity is stronger.
What can I do to prevent tetanus?
You can help prevent tetanus by practicing good hygiene.
To avoid infections:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- Use disposable towels and washcloths instead of washcloths.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze to help prevent the spread of germs.
- Keep your living quarters clean and disinfect frequently.
- Avoid contact with people who have tetanus or have a weakened immune system.
- Wash your skin and clothes regularly and thoroughly.
What is the long-term outlook?
Your outlook depends on how severe your symptoms are and how soon you receive treatment.
For mild symptoms, you may be able to return to work after treatments. If your symptoms are severe, you may need to rest for several weeks.
If you have a weakened immune system, you may need to receive a tetanus vaccine.
The tetanus vaccine is safe and effective in preventing tetanus.
The CDC recommends that children receive the tetanus vaccine at 2 months of age and again between 4 and 6 years of age.
The tetanus shot is also recommended for adults older than age 65.
The tetanus vaccine is also recommended for people who:
- Are in a hospital or care facility
- Work or live in a group home
- Work or live in a nursing home
- Live in a correctional facility
- Live in a long-term care facility
- Have a compromised immune system
People who are at risk for tetanus include:
- Anyone who has had a tetanus infection
- Children who have had a tetanus infection
- Older adults who have a weakened immune system
How to prevent tetanus?
The best way to prevent tetanus is to practice good hygiene.
To avoid infections:
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
Wash your hands regularly, especially before preparing food or drinking water.
Avoid sharing food or eating utensils with people who have tetanus or a weakened immune system.
The CDC recommends the following measures to prevent tetanus:
- Wash your hands before handling food.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
- Wash your hands after being in the hospital, caring for someone with tetanus, or working as a health care worker.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
- Use a single-use, disposable towel instead of a washcloth.
- Keep your living quarters clean and disinfect frequently, especially in areas where you spend a lot of time.
If you notice a skin infection, such as a minor cut or abrasion, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
How can I stay safe?
If you’ve been exposed to tetanus, the CDC recommends the following steps to prevent infections:
- Wash your skin and clothes with soap and water when you change your clothes.
- Wash your clothes and bedding frequently.
- Avoid contact with soil or water.
- Wash your skin and clothes after being outside.
- Avoid contact with animals or farm animals.
- Avoid exposure to a bug bite.
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle to soothe the pain.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Apply a cold compress to the skin to help with swelling.
- Take an anti-inflammatory medication.
Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that can cause permanent disability.
The tetanus vaccine is safe and effective. It can also help prevent tetanus.
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