Getting Vaccinated Against Tetanus
Tetanus bacteria are commonly found in dust, manure and dirt. They enter your blood through a wound and seriously affect the nervous system. Tetanus is a rare but potentially deadly disease.
A tetanus infection causes your muscles to tighten, eventually leading to "lockjaw." Lockjaw occurs when the muscles in your mouth and jaw stiffen, making it impossible for you to open your mouth or swallow. If this happens, you are at serious risk of suffocation.
The best way to prevent tetanus is to get vaccinated. While tetanus has become uncommon in the U.S. thanks to vaccination programs, nearly all cases are among people who have never been vaccinated or who are behind on their booster schedule.
Babies and young children generally receive a series of shots to protect them from tetanus and diphtheria, another dangerous bacterial infection, beginning as early as 2 months of age. Following that initial series, doctors advise a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster shot every 10 years unless you're allergic to the vaccine.
Adults who have never been vaccinated need a series of 3 Td shots, then a booster every 10 years.
Public health experts also recommend a tetanus booster for any deep cut or puncture wound, regardless of the source, if you haven't had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years. If you're unvaccinated and experience such an injury, seek medical care right away.
Even if the wound is minor, you should ask your doctor about whether you need a tetanus shot. A puncture caused by an animal bite needs immediate medical help. You should also see a doctor if the object remains in the wound or if it entered your skin through a shoe.
This article is not meant to replace a doctor's advice. Be sure to talk to your doctor about immunizations you may need.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Krames Staywell, National Institutes of Health