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The Dark Side of the Tetanus Shot: 10 Scary Side Effects

The Dark Side of the Tetanus Shot: 10 Scary Side Effects

The tetanus shot, or tetanus immunization, is one of the most common vaccines administered to children and adults in the United States today. Though it’s an important way to keep your body safe from serious diseases such as tetanus, it can also have scary side effects that you should know about before you decide whether or not to get one. In this article, we’ll tell you what the dangers of the tetanus shot are, and how you can avoid these side effects by making an informed decision before you get your next dose.

1) Premature Birth

The tetanus shot contains a bacteria called Clostridium tetani, which causes spontaneous abortion in pregnant women. Premature babies also have a harder time fighting off common illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis and chickenpox. If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you might want to skip the shot—and any other vaccinations that contain live bacterial cultures. These immunizations can make it more difficult for your body to conceive and may cause birth defects in your baby if you do become pregnant while vaccinated.

2) Autism

Children who receive multiple doses of a combination vaccine that includes tetanus (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, or DPT) are at increased risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a review by researchers at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, the review is among several recent studies that suggest a link between childhood vaccinations and ASD.

3) Seizures

Though they’re rare, some people do experience seizures as a side effect of their tetanus shot. For example, one study out of Sweden found that 5 in every million people who received a tetanus shot developed a seizure (around 20 people each year). Still, it’s important to keep in mind that other studies haven’t found any link between them—which means you may want to talk with your doctor about whether or not they think your risk is higher before deciding on whether or not to get vaccinated.

4) Low Muscle Tone

Low muscle tone is a condition in which your muscles are weak and it’s difficult to control them. Low muscle tone can make it hard to move, lift or balance. The good news is that low muscle tone often improves as children grow older, and most children will outgrow it. The bad news is that young children with low muscle tone may have difficulty running or walking, playing games and even using their hands. For example, low muscle tone can make it hard to grip a crayon correctly, making writing harder and more frustrating for kids with low muscle tone. Luckily there are a few strategies you can use to encourage proper hand development in your child, including adapting writing utensils so they work better for your child’s grasp.

5) Vision Issues

Some people report developing temporary vision issues after getting a tetanus shot. There are case reports on medical literature that link things like blurry vision, double vision, and retinal detachment to receiving a tetanus shot, so it’s definitely not out of bounds to be concerned. These types of problems are rare—but they do occur. If you develop these symptoms shortly after receiving a vaccine, talk to your doctor about what’s going on as soon as possible.

6) Heart Problems

It’s estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of those who get a tetanus shot will suffer from heart problems. This is because tetanus shots contain formaldehyde, which can cause severe allergic reactions, according to WebMD. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, chest pain and even an irregular heartbeat. If you experience any of these symptoms after receiving a tetanus shot or a booster for your vaccine, you should seek medical attention right away.

7) Allergic Reaction

When you get a tetanus shot, your body recognizes it as a foreign substance and immediately tries to defend itself by mounting an immune response. This can lead to hives or even anaphylaxis—an allergic reaction severe enough that you need emergency care. People with severe allergies should avoid vaccines altogether.

8) Hearing Loss

When you get a tetanus shot, you might notice a slight ringing in your ears. The good news is that it usually goes away quickly; but if it doesn’t, see your doctor. There are some rare cases when tinnitus has been caused by a vaccine-related injury to nerves in your ear (known as vestibular neuritis). If so, your treatment options include medications and surgeries that can help restore balance and hearing. For example, with vestibular neuritis caused by a vaccine, surgery can sometimes help—but not always. A larger problem is that many people don’t have access to these surgeries if they need them because they live far from medical centers equipped to do so.

9) Deafness

Though it sounds pretty scary, deafness is surprisingly common in people who have gotten a tetanus shot. It is estimated that one out of every 1,000 to 3,000 people experiences some degree of temporary or permanent hearing loss after getting their vaccination. The risk isn’t just theoretical—the CDC reports that nine instances of permanent bilateral sensorineural hearing loss were linked to tetanus vaccinations between 1997 and 2005.

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