If you are reading this article here, then we are sure that you would want to know how often do you need a tetanus shot or something associated. Before we give you the correct answer, let us know what Tetanus is, because it has an interesting story come with it.
What Is Tetanus?
Tetanus is otherwise known as “lockjaw”, which is a very serious infection caused by the bacteria named “Clostridium tetani”. These bacteria generate toxins that affect a person’s nervous system and brain. These toxins further bring stiffness in jaw muscles (and other muscles as well), which is why the name “lockjaw”. Also, this infection causes severe breathing problems, muscle spasms and can be fatal.
Where Do Clostridium tetani Come From?
Spores of “Clostridium tetani” are commonly seen in dust, soil, manure, and animal feces. However, they exist virtually everywhere. Once the bacteria are deposited in a person’s wound, the neurotoxins interfere with nerves, thereby, controlling muscle movements.
Even though there are treatments for tetanus today, they are not that effective. Moreover, every treatment’s curing period varies. They are not uniform. So, the best advice is to protect yourself from tetanus by having a vaccine. With this, comes a very important question as to how often do you need a tetanus shot. Read the below section.
How Often Do You Need A Tetanus Shot?
Once this deadly disease attacks a person, the bacteria affects his or her entire nervous system. Hence, vaccination is certainly the ideal way to protect oneself from tetanus. An adult should get his or her tetanus booster shots once every 10 years. Now, if a person notices a puncture wound and it is been over 5 years after his or her last tetanus vaccine or probably cannot remember when he or she has had the previous tetanus vaccine, it is best to get the booster tetanus shot.
Remember, that the bacteria that cause tetanus can easily enter a person’s body through any tiniest scratch or cut, which further releases a deadly poison known as “tetanospasmin”. Deep puncture wounds like stepping on a nail cause tetanus infection, in no time.
If an individual is experiencing an injury like this and it has been over 5 years since his or her last booster shot, it is important to get another shot right away. Those who have never been immunized against deadly tetanus must receive 3 tetanus shots initially within a period of 7 – 12 months.
What If You Have Not Received Tetanus Vaccine As A Child?
Normally, you get your tetanus shots at the shoulder muscle (deltoid). However, for any reason, if you have not received the tetanus vaccine during your childhood, you should begin with a 3-dose primary series, wherein the first dose includes a 3-in-1 combo called “Tdap”, which protects you from tetanus.
You will receive the other 2 vaccine doses within a period of 7 – 10 months after the first dose. Once you have received the 3 primary series, you have to get a Td booster shot every ten years.
Which Adult Should Get A Tetanus Vaccine?
How Often Do You Need A Tetanus Shot:
- Has not received the primary tetanus shots series as a child
- Has recovered from tetanus
- Has not received a tetanus booster since ten years
Which Adult Should Not Get A Tetanus Vaccine?
A person should not have tetanus shots if he or she:
- Suffers a severe allergic reaction after the initial Tdap vaccine
- Has a history of epilepsy (or seizures) or nervous system problems in the family
- Experiences swelling and pain with the earlier tetanus vaccine
Can A Pregnant Woman Get A Tetanus Shot?
Yes, it is okay to get a tetanus shot during pregnancy. In fact, the recent guidelines suggest every pregnant woman receive a Tdap vaccine to prevent pertussis. However, it is good to talk about this to a doctor.
What Happens When A Person Gets Tetanus Shots Close Together?
Usually, doctors recommend getting tetanus shots every 10 years, but chances are that few people might have them close – within few years. One doesn’t have to be worried. It is completely okay to receive an extra tetanus shot. This is true, especially when the person is being treated for any acute injury like puncture wound or deep cut and the person cannot exactly recall when he or she had the last shot.
A tetanus vaccine composes of deactivated tetanus toxins, which helps in preventing a person from contracting tetanus. It is immunogenic but not pathogenic. As said above, this deadly infection attacks nerve signals from the spinal cord. However, the best thing is that one can prevent this deadly disease with the help of tetanus vaccination.
What Ingredients Are There In A Tetanus Vaccine?
A tetanus vaccine is made of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis toxins, which have together been made non-toxic to create an immune response. This vaccine does not contain any bacteria. It is like an antidote.
Symptoms That You Are Having Tetanus
Tetanus symptoms are consequences of toxins produced from Clostridium tetani. Signs usually appear within 7 – 10 days after the initial infection, but this can vary from 4 days – 3 weeks. In few cases, it might even take months.
General symptoms include
- Stiffness in jaw muscles, neck, legs, abdomen, and arms
- Trouble while swallowing
- Elevated blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle spasms in the face, making a person so smile strangely or probably grin
- Sensitivity to touch
- Feces or stools with blood
- Sore throat
- Rapid heartbeats (Tachycardia)
Immediate treatment is required once the person starts experiencing the above signs. If left untreated, tetanus causes severe suffocation and finally, leading to death.
Severe symptoms include
- Kidney failure
- Suffocation (Asphyxia)
- Blood poisoning (Septicemia)
- Heart attack
So, the tetanus symptoms begin with muscle stiffness (or rigidity) and muscle spasms, particularly at the jaw. They then radiate to the person’s throat, chest, and neck, which in turn causes difficulties in swallowing (dysphagia) and breathing. If the case is severe, the patient’s spine arches backward. This kind of situation is more commonly seen in tetanus-infected children.
Side Effects Or Dangers Associated With Tetanus Vaccine
Now that you have learned how often do you need a tetanus shot, it is equally important for you to be aware of the kind of side effects or dangers associated with the tetanus vaccine. Sometimes, tetanus vaccine might cause certain mild side effects, which include:
- Swelling in the region where the vaccine has been injected
- Body aches
A severe allergic reaction is rare but can happen. This occurs within few minutes after being vaccinated. The symptoms include:
- Vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramping or diarrhea
- Swelling, skin flushing or itching
- Trouble while breathing
- Respiratory issues
- Low blood pressure, rapid heartbeats, and dizziness
What To Do When You Have Severe Reaction Signs?
If you have a severe reaction to the tetanus vaccine, do the below:
- Call 911 / go to a hospital immediately
- Tell the doctor clearly when you received the tetanus vaccine and what exactly occurred
- Get a complete report of the reaction from the healthcare professional because you might need it in the future
Diagnosing The Tetanus
A spatula test confirms if a person has tetanus or not. The test involves inserting a spatula at the throat’s back, which causes a reflex and the person will want to push it out of his or her mouth. However, if the person has an infection, the spatula causes throat muscles to spasm and he or she will want to bite the spatula.
When Do You Need A Tetanus Shot?
Tetanus is a deadly illness and about 30% of cases turn out to be fatal. It is not contagious. Therefore, you will not get this disease from someone, who already has it. The bacteria enter the body only through puncture wounds or cuts, especially when the region around the wound is dirty. Only a tetanus vaccine can protect you against the toxins produced by bacteria. However, the question is when do you need a tetanus shot? Here is the answer.
Tetanus immunization is usually administered to kids in the form of DTaP vaccine, which helps in protecting them from pertussis and diphtheria. An infant is commonly given DTaP vaccine in 4 doses during the age:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 15 to 18 months
The next dose is given to the infant when he or she is 4 – 6 years old. Since the antitoxin levels in a human body gradually drop over time, doctors recommend booster shots combined with Td (diphtheria-tetanus) every ten years. Td is given to adolescents. Adults receive booster shots every ten years once. A single Tdap dose is recommended for kids between the ages 11 and 12. If it has been over ten years since your last tetanus shot, check with a doctor to update your immunization. A booster tetanus shot is also recommended when you have a deep contaminated wound.
Where To Get Tetanus Shot?
A very popular source that helps you where to get the tetanus shot from is none other than Vaccines.gov. This website lists down to you different locations to get the tetanus shot from. Its “Adult Vaccine Finder” feature helps in locating different providers offering tetanus vaccines near you. All you have to do is to enter your city/zip code and state.
Do You Need A Tetanus Vaccine After An Injury Or An Accident?
This depends on your condition. If your injury has deep cuts in the skin or your tetanus vaccinations are not up to date, then you will require a tetanus vaccine.
Additional Things To Note
1. Learn When You Are Likely To Encounter The Bacteria That Causes Tetanus
Tetanus-causing bacteria are found everywhere in the environment. They lurk in the soil, which has been contaminated with human and animal feces. Manure is yet another place where you will find them.
2. Things That Cause Tetanus
Usually, bacteria enter your body via cuts, wounds, and burns, especially if the injury is dirty, unclean or not protected with bandaging. You will need a tetanus shot when the below situations occur:
- Use of unsterilized needles
- Rust on your nails
- Injuries or deep cuts
3. Pay Attention To The Symptoms
Signs begin to appear within a week after the bacteria has infected your body. If you experience jaw stuffiness, muscle spasms, and trouble while breathing or swallowing then learn that you have tetanus. Once you notice the tetanus symptoms, it is very important that you have it checked right away. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
4. Clean And Secure A Wound
Since bacteria enter the body via cuts and unclean wounds, it is vital that you clean and has the wound secured so that there are no chances of contamination. A wound should be taken care of, properly, to reduce the risks of infection.
5. Seek Medical Help If You Suspect It To Be Tetanus
If you already have the documentation of your previous tetanus shot, take it when you consult a doctor. If it has been 10 years or lesser since you have received the last shot, you are safe from infection. You will only need a booster shot if the wound is severe. Check with your doctor about this.
6. Be Acquainted With The Basic Treatment
Whenever you get a wound, make sure to clean it properly. Eliminate all the dead tissues and remove the foreign matter too. If the wound is deep, you will require a booster vaccine, only if it has been more than five years from the last one.
Note: If you have got a wound or a cut, clean it properly as soon as possible to avoid infection. Once you are vaccinated, you will not need another tetanus shot. However, for any reason, if you do not know whether you are fully vaccinated, talk to your GP. If you have tetanus-prone wounds, it is important to get medical treatments soon, even if you are vaccinated.
A tetanus-prone wound is:
- A burn or wound that requires surgery but cannot be performed within twenty-four hours
- A burn or wound that has significant amounts of tissues removed
- A burn or wound that contains foreign bodies (dirt or dust)
- A fracture that is exposed and prone to infections
I hope you have understood everything about tetanus.
If you already have tetanus or have had suffered it before and want other readers to know something, which you feel we have missed writing here, feel free to drop it in the comment section.
Senior Writer, has been with Rottenpanda.com since 2017. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, Nick specializes in finding interesting topics, gathering details, checking facts, and making complex subjects easy to understand. In addition to writing articles, Nick loves traveling, pets and happily married to Lucy.