Signs and symptoms of tetanus may appear anytime from a few days to several weeks after tetanus bacteria enter your body through a wound. The average incubation period is seven to eight days.
Common signs and symptoms of tetanus, in order of appearance, are:
- Spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles
- Stiffness of your neck muscles
- Difficulty swallowing
- Stiffness of your abdominal muscles
- Painful body spasms lasting for several minutes, typically triggered by minor occurrences, such as a draft, loud noise, physical touch or light
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
When to see a doctor
See your doctor to obtain a tetanus booster shot if you have a deep or dirty wound and you haven't had a booster shot within the past five years or aren't sure of when your last booster was. Or see your doctor about a tetanus booster for any wound — especially if it may have been contaminated with dirt, animal feces or manure — if you haven't had a booster shot within the past 10 years or aren't sure of when you were last vaccinated.
Apr. 24, 2013
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- Diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis vaccines: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-dtap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Tetanus, diphtheria (Td) or tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-td-tdap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
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