Tetanus is a serious but rare condition caused by bacteria getting into a wound.

From January to December 2016, there were only four cases of tetanus in England. The number is low because an effective tetanus vaccine is given as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

Most people who get tetanus weren't vaccinated against it or didn't complete the entire vaccination schedule.



The symptoms of tetanus usually develop 4 to 21 days after infection. On average, they start after around 10 days.

The main symptoms include:

  • stiffness in your jaw muscles (lockjaw), which can make opening your mouth difficult
  • painful muscle spasms, which can make breathing and swallowing difficult
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • sweating
  • a rapid heartbeat

Left untreated, the symptoms can get worse over the following hours and days.


Bacteria,Clostridium Tetani


If your doctor thinks you could develop tetanus but you haven't had any symptoms yet, they'll clean your wounds and give you an injection of tetanus immunoglobulin. They may also give you a dose of the tetanus vaccine if you haven't been fully vaccinated in the past.

Tetanus immunoglobulin is a medication containing antibodies that kill the tetanus bacteria. It provides immediate, but short-term, protection from tetanus.

If you develop symptoms of tetanus, you'll usually need to be admitted to a hospital intensive care unit (ICU), where you may be given a number of different treatments. These could include tetanus immunoglobulin, antibiotics, and medication to relieve muscle stiffness and spasms.

Most people who develop symptoms of tetanus eventually recover, although it can take several weeks or months.


A tetanus vaccination is given as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

The full course of the vaccination requires five injections, usually given on the following schedule:

This course of five injections should provide long-lasting protection against tetanus. However, if you or your child has a deep or dirty wound, it's best to get medical advice.

If you're not sure whether you've had the full vaccination course, contact your GP surgery for advice. It's possible to fully vaccinate older children and adults who weren't vaccinated when they were younger.