KidsMD Health Topics


  • What is tetanus?

    Tetanus is an acute, sometimes fatal, disease of the central nervous system, caused by the toxin of the tetanus bacterium, which usually enters the body through an open wound. The tetanus bacteria live in soil and manure, but also can be found in the human intestine and other places.

    • Tetanus occurs more often in warmer climates or during the warmer months.

    • Tetanus is very uncommon in the US due to widespread immunization. Fewer than 60 cases every year occur in the United States.

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches tetanus

    Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTAP)

    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    BK 120
    Boston MA 02115
    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Ave
    BK 120
    Boston MA 02115

  • How is tetanus transmitted?

    Tetanus isn't contagious. It occurs in those who have had a skin or deep tissue wound or puncture. It is also seen in the umbilical stump of infants in underdeveloped countries. This occurs in places where immunization to tetanus is not widespread and women may not know proper care of the stump after the baby is born.

    After being exposed to tetanus, it may take between two days to two months to develop any symptoms. In infants, symptoms may take between five days to two weeks to develop.

    What are the symptoms of tetanus?

    The following are the most common symptoms of tetanus. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

    • stiffness of jaw (also called lockjaw)
    • stiffness of abdominal and back muscles
    • contraction of facial muscles
    • fast pulse
    • fever
    • sweating
    • painful muscle spasms near the wound area (if these affect the larynx or chest wall, they may cause asphyxiation)
    • difficulty swallowing

    The symptoms of tetanus may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

  • Treatment for tetanus may include

    • medications (to control spasms)
    • thorough cleaning of the wound
    • a course of tetanus antitoxin injections
    • a tracheostomy (a breathing tube inserted surgically in the windpipe) in severe cases with respiratory problems
Request an Appointment

If this is a medical emergency, please dial 9-1-1. This form should not be used in an emergency.

Patient Information
Date of Birth:
Contact Information
Appointment Details
Send RequestIf you do not see the specialty you are looking for, please call us at: 617-355-6000.International visitors should call International Health Services at +1-617-355-5209.
Please complete all required fields

This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

Thank you.

Your request has been successfully submitted

You will be contacted within 1 business day.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call:

617-355-6000 +1-617-355-6000
Find a Doctor
Search by Clinician's Last Name or Specialty:
Select by Location:
Search by First Letter of Clinician's Last Name: *ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Condition & Treatments
Search for a Condition or Treatment:
View allSearch
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO