Pain after Tetanus Shot and Other Side Effects

Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani that is transmitted by direct traumatic injury from rusty metals and nails. Tetanus is a life threatening medical condition that has a very high fatality rate (almost 11%). Once the bacteria gains access into the body, it quickly ascends to involve cerebral nerves leading to tetanic muscular spasms and death may occur if respiratory muscles (or diaphragm) get involved. In order to prevent this life threatening infection, it is indicated to take tetanus shots after exposure to a rusty metal or any injury that exposes you to the spores of Clostridium. Tetanus toxoids are considered a part of active immunity protocol; however, one dose does not provide lifelong immunity and boosters are required at intervals to maintain antibody levels in the serum.

Tetanus Shot Side Effects

Tetanus vaccine is composed of tetanus toxoid that induces the production of antibodies within the human body and is usually given to all the pediatric aged children as part of DPT vaccination. If you have received tetanus toxoid as part of DPT vaccine during childhood, you will need a booster once every 10 years. Tetanus vaccination is widely available in all parts of the world and although fairly safe in most individuals, toxoid shots are associated with side effects in some genetically susceptible individuals. Most side effects are minor and resolve without requiring any medical intervention; however, a little percentage may develop life threatening reactions.

Common side effects reported with tetanus shots are as under:

1. Pain and Stiffness in the Injected Area

Pain and stiffness at the site of injection is fairly common with a lot of vaccinations that are introduced via intra-muscular route. Clinical data suggest that over 75% individuals develop localized pain or stiffness at the injection site after tetanus shots that may involve entire upper limb for a couple of days, which is one of the most common tetanus shot side effects. 1-3% individuals develop localized muscle wasting that may present with deep aching pain lasting for weeks or even months. Generally the pain is not very severe and does not interfere with day to day activities; however, if pain lasts longer than a month or two, it may indicate an adverse reaction to vaccination that requires medical management. Other common symptoms that may be associated with pain includes localized tenderness, feeling of a hard lump or temporary numbness.

2. Swelling and Redness

Vaccination is associated with mild swelling, redness or local irritation that resolves spontaneously without requiring any medical intervention within a couple of days. You can take aspirin or other non- steroidal anti-inflammatory agents to manage the moderate swelling and inflammatory signs.

3. Gastrointestinal Reaction

Like most vaccinations, one of tetanus shot side effects is also associated with mild gastric irritation, marked by nausea, vomiting or diarrhea that resolves spontaneously without requiring any intervention. Most cases are extremely mild. Statistical data suggest that gastric irritation is reported in 3% of adolescents and about 1% of mature adults after vaccination.

4. Immune Response

Tetanus shot contain toxoid that is immunogenic (i.e. it has the propensity to form antibodies). After vaccination, some people may develop mild fever and physical fatigue as part of the immunologic response of the body. Some people may also develop generalized or localized muscle aches and body pain along with tense and tender lymph nodes. Once again, symptoms do not require any therapy or management in most cases.

5. Allergic reaction

Allergy to tetanus toxoid is extremely rare and is characterized by life threatening sequence of events that require emergent and urgent medical intervention. Allergic response is characterized by dizziness, swelling of face, lips, limbs and other parts of the body that may or may not be associated with changes in heart rate and pattern of breathing. Family history of allergy to tetanus vaccination should be discussed with the doctor and any allergic response to tetanus vaccination is a contraindication for future vaccinations.

Precautions for Tetanus Shot

Tetanus shot side effects and adverse reactions can be minimized by taking a few precautions like:

Introducing the vaccine in correct dosage

A dose of 0.5 mL should be introduced as a booster that is given mostly after every 10 years.

Drug interactions

Sometimes tetanus toxoid may cross- react with certain drugs and bio-chemicals. Drugs like corticosteroids, radiations, alkylating agents, cancer chemotherapy and similar classes of drugs may affect the patency of vaccination and may induce adverse reactions. It is highly recommended to speak to your doctor regarding drug history.

Medical conditions to watch for

Certain medical conditions increase the risk of adverse reaction and thus may require dose or drug modification to prevent life threatening sequelae. Following medical conditions should be watch for:

  • Blood clotting disorders (or history of recent bleeding episode)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Recent history of thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
  • If you have high fever (more than 103 deg. Farenheit).
  • Seizure activity or current neurological infection.

Precautions for children

In addition to all the conditions listed above, it is recommended to maintain further caution in pediatric aged children. Vaccination should be avoided in children younger than 7 years due to significant levels of mercury that may induce a state of toxicity. A history of known allergy to thimerosal or latex is also a contraindication for tetanus shots. Moreover, a previous history of paralysis, encephalopathy or seizures with tetanus vaccination or any other vaccination should also be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Precautions for pregnant mothers

It is strictly recommended to avoid tetanus shots during first trimester of pregnancy. Since pregnancy is a high risk state in which exposure to clostridium is fairly high (at the time of child-birth) a booster is usually advised during second trimester of pregnancy if 10 years have elapsed since last vaccination. There is no restriction or contraindication for breast feeding mommies.

 
 
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