Tetanus is a serious illness caused by Clostridium bacteria. The bacteria live in soil, saliva, dust, and manure. The bacteria can enter the body through a deep cut, like those you might get from stepping on a nail, or through a burn.
The infection causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to "locking" of the jaw. This makes it impossible to open your mouth or swallow. Tetanus is a medical emergency. You need to get treatment in a hospital.
A vaccine can prevent tetanus. It is given as a part of routine childhood immunization. Adults should get a tetanus shot, or booster, every 10 years. If you get a bad cut or burn, see your doctor - you may need a booster. Immediate and proper wound care can prevent tetanus infection.
- Tetanus: Symptoms and Complications (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Diagnosis and Tests
- Tetanus: Diagnosis and Treatment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Do I Need a Tetanus Shot? (American College of Emergency Physicians)
- MedlinePlus: Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis Vaccines (National Library of Medicine) Available in Spanish
- Tetanus (Lockjaw) (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)
- Tetanus (Lockjaw) Photos (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Statistics and Research
- Tetanus Surveillance (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Case File: The Spazzoids (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Tetanus Available in Spanish
- Tetanus and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent It: Information for Parents (American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF