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What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Page last updated 28 April 2020

Early signs of tetanus include: 

  • muscle spasms or tightness that begin in the jaw and neck 
  • inability to open the mouth (lockjaw) swallowing problems
  • breathing difficulties
  • painful convulsions (fits)
  • abnormal heart rhythms.

Occasionally a person may present with a fever and sometimes develop abnormal heart rhythms. Further complications include:

  • pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
  • broken bones from the muscle spasms
  • respiratory failure
  • cardiac arrest.

Sources & Citations

3. Victoria State Government – Better Health Channel. Tetanus. Available at: (Accessed 19 March 2020).

5. New South Wales Government Health. Tetanus Fact Sheet. Available at: (Accessed 19 March 2020).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0137(1)a - Date of preparation April 2020