Why do tetanus shots hurt?

I’m returning to college in the fall; actually switching to a new university and they’re requiring me to get my vaccinations updated. Got Measles/Mumps/Rubella, Diptheria/Tetanus and Hep A/Hep B (this one was optional, but Ifigured what the heck) on Friday. 3 shots. The tetanus one is killing me right now.

Why does it hurt?

What exactly does a tetanus shot do, biologically?

Thank you, dear Dopers.

Color me surprised. No answers yet?

Wow, I thought someone would be all over this one by now.

Healthcare professionals, I’m calling you-ou-ou-ou-ou

It’s a booster shot. It is employed to “boost” your immunity before it peters out. Most people getting it still have lots of circulating antibody to tetanus toxoid from previous immunizations. The antibody gloms onto the tetanus toxoid, and initiates all-out war. Result: Inflammation and pain.

Why not the same with repeat MMR’s? I’m not sure. It may be due to the presence of adjuvent in the Tetanus toxoid, which is used to encourage stronger immune response. Clinical trials showed that enhancing the response with adjuvent gave better protection. I don’t think adjuvent is employed with the viral vaccines (tetanus is a bacteria which produces neurotoxin) but I’m not positive.

adverse reactions to tetanus toxoid

Happy now? :smiley:

I’m happy now. Thanks Qadgop. You may continue licking the hull now.

Gosh, you know how to make a person feel appreciated. Maybe one day I’ll have the honor of serving as your personal physician!


My company’s nurse told me that as long as you mix it thoroughly before injection, it won’t hurt.

She did, and it didn’t!

I asked her because even though it had been 10 years since my last one I still remembered how painfull it was!

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on SDMB.

From my experience, tetanus shots are injected into muscle. From my experience, that hurts like a BITCH!

I once sliced the tip of a finger off (no bone, just the tip). The four novacaine (?) injections I received at the base of the finger hurt until the numbing kicked in. The rest of the procedure was painless. That was until the doctor was done and said that I needed a tetanus shot, which he decided should be administered to my butt cheek.

I’m not at all scared of needles, but butt :slight_smile: injections HURT! It probably didn’t help that I was totally unable to prevent flexing my butt cheek at the time. I couldn’t walk normally for over a day, and the pain from that injection hurt more than the whole fingertip slicing experience.

You ain’t felt nothing till you’ve had toradol shot into your butt. The nurse said, “This may sting a little bit.”

And by “sting a little bit,” she meant, “this may feel like I’ve poured gasoline on your leg and lit it with a flame thrower.”

Or maybe I’m just a wuss. :smiley:

What do mean tetanus shots hurt? It’s not a bit worse than being punched in the shoulder, or wherever, by a boxer who really knows how to hit.

Getting shots doesn’t bother me. I wish I knew my secret so that I could share them with the world, but alas I do not. Even the dreaded anthrax vaccine ( which everyone says hurts alot) didn’t hurt for me. When we got 5 shots in a day in basic training, everyone but me had bruised arms. ( and no, Tetanus didn’t hurt for me either)

Some wild speculation:
I take quite a few vitamins, including C, E, chromium, multivitamin, co-enzyme Q-10, Lutein and Lycopine. If it’s one of these, it’s likely to be one of the first three, since I was taking them before I went to basic training. Vitamin C is an antihistamine IIRC, so that is a good candidate.

Another theory of mine is that I just managed not to move when they used the autoinjectors on me, while everyone else moved, thus getting injured. Though this wouldn’t explain regular injections.

I just got one, it didnt hurt at all, nada, nothing except for a very small prick when the needle went in. Must not have been done right.
Who was your nurse and what nursing school did she go to?

Sorry, that’s incorrect! Tetanus shots are known for causing lots of pain and inflammation even when given correctly.


I had a reaction so bad that I called my Dr. I thought for sure I was having some kind of allergic reaction. The site was the size of a golf ball - you could see it through the sleeve of a sweater! It was hot to the touch and it hurt. I also had a slight fever (around 100 degrees).

I felt crappy for a few days and the site hurt for over a week. My Dr. assured me it was not an allergic reaction, but that some people just have more severe reactions than others. As others have pointed out, some people (like my husband) don’t have a reaction at all.

Adult tetanus immunizations are generally somewhat painful because they are intramuscular, and because the material being injected is designed to elicit an antibody response. As some people have already noted, individual reactions will vary widely. It’s standard procedure to recommend the patient take acetominophen or an anti-inflammatory (aspirin, ibuprofen) before receiving the immunization, and as needed afterwards. Incidentally, the majority of adults who receive a tetanus booster are actually receiving a combination tetanus/diphtheria booster immunization.

I agree with Turek… Toradol injections hurt like burning shards of hell.

and voltaire… I was in an accident at camp when I was a teenager and gashed my leg open. It ended up needing close to 40 stitches. I was in shock at first, and so really didn’t feel the pain although my leg looked “like it had been laid open by a broadsword” according to the doc. When they gave me the first novocaine injection, I screamed and then vomited. They had to get extra nurses in to hold me down for the next few injections.

"I had a reaction so bad that I called my Dr. I thought for sure I was having some kind of allergic reaction. The site was the size of a golf ball - you could see it through the sleeve of a sweater! It was hot to the touch and it hurt. "

HA!, you whim :P; compared to what happened to me that was a picnic. The day after I got my shot I noticed a blood stain on my shirt sleeve; when I saw where did that came from I almost puked my last nights dinner over the pillow. I had a big antibody response; the spot where the needle went was gone, zip; bye bye, there was a hole in my flesh about 1cm wide and 2 or 3 deep; it went through a vein, so I could see a couple extra holes going either side of the wound too. GROSS! :eek:

"Sorry, that’s incorrect! Tetanus shots are known for causing lots of pain and inflammation even when given correctly. "

Shouldn’t that be “Tetanus shots are known for sometimes causing lots of pain and inflammation even when given correctly.”

Many of us have had many tetanus boosters over the years and have never experienced more than moderate immediate pain and a day or two of moderate arm soreness. I think we are in the majority.

Well, I am telling you that I got one last week, and it did not hurt one bit. I am reporting what happened to me 7 days ago, a pretty recent personal experience. The nurse told me beforehand that these shots dont hurt anymore, and she was right. I even forgot I got the tetenus shot until I saw this board to remind me of it.

Lucky you. Your experience is not universal.

Any vaccine runs the risk of a severe local reaction; it is in the nature of the physiologic reaction the vaccine is being used to induce. And tetanus vaccines tend to cause more frequent and more severe local reactions than most others.

As for the nurse saying that “these shots don’t hurt anymore”, well that’s just not borne out by clinical experience. For some they may be nearly painless, but local reactions are still common.

You had one tetanus shot a week ago. I’ve authorized and ordered hundreds in the last few years alone, and dealt with at least a dozen local reactions. But feel free to think that your expertise outweighs both mine and the current medical literature in this area.

Don’t you think you’re being a bit nit-picky? My original cite gave the frequency of moderate and severe reactions to the immunization

Nor do I think the statement implies that everyone must have a severe reaction. But the fact remains; tetanus shots are known for having significant reactions to them. Not every time, no. But commonly.

People telling the doctor that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Sometimes you gotta love the fight against ignorance. Some people tolerate pain more than others. Tetanus is excruciating to many, but a minor ache to others. Personally, I think Typhoid is a bastard.

And to me, tetanus sucked but never hurt a bit after gamma globulin. That shot is a gold plated SOB.