Scheduled tetanus shots over a person’s lifetime can prevent tetanus. If a person has a dirty wound and is unsure if or when they had the vaccines, a doctor can administer a tetanus booster while treating the wound.

Tetanus shots are available from a range of places, including doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies.

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, causes the muscles to stiffen, affecting vital functions, such as breathing and swallowing. The spores of Clostridium tetani bacteria cause tetanus. These spores are in the soil and can enter the body through cuts.

This article will focus on when to get a tetanus vaccine, its possible side effects, and more.

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People of all ages should receive tetanus shots.

Tetanus shots are routine vaccines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend for people of all ages.

The type of vaccine and dosage that a doctor administers is different for children and adults.

Tetanus shot schedule

A doctor will only administer DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) and DT (diphtheria and tetanus) shots to children under the age of 7 years. The DTaP vaccine typically follows a five-dose process. A doctor may administer doses at the ages of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15–18 months, and 4–6 years.

Children should have a booster Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) shot at the age of 11 or 12 years to follow the vaccines they received at a younger age.

A pregnant woman should have a Tdap booster shot in the third trimester of every pregnancy to protect the fetus.

People above the age of 19 years should have Tdap booster shots every 10 years.

Emergency booster shot

If a person has concerns over a severe or dirty wound, they should urgently see a doctor who may administer the booster before the next one is technically due. If the initial shot was Tdap, the person might have a Td booster shot against tetanus.

Insurance plans cover most vaccines, including the tetanus shot, so doctors can administer it at no extra cost to the person.

Tetanus vaccines are easy to access across the United States.

A person may get a tetanus shot at various places, including:

  • doctor’s office
  • pharmacy
  • heath center
  • travel clinic
  • health department

As with all medication, vaccines, including tetanus shots, can cause side effects. However, these are rare, and symptoms are usually mild.

DTaP may cause:

Rarely, DTaP causes more severe side effects, including high fever, swelling of the whole limb, constant crying for more than 3 hours, or seizures. Though extremely unlikely, there is a chance of the vaccine inducing an allergic reaction, reduced consciousness, long-term seizures, permanent brain damage, or coma.

Possible side effects of Tdap and Td are:

People occasionally faint after a Tdap or Td shot.

Learn more about the side effects of the tetanus shot here.

All vaccines pose a minor risk of a severe allergic reaction.

If signs of an allergic reaction appear, such as swelling of the face or throat, difficulty breathing, or hives, call 911 and go to the hospital.

People should not get the shot if they are allergic to any of the vaccine’s ingredients. A doctor may also recommend a person who is ill to wait until they recover before they go for the shot.

Before getting a tetanus shot, a person should tell the doctor if they:

Tetanus shots are successful, with very few people contracting the infection once they are vaccinated.

A booster shot is effective for 10 years before a person’s resistance begins to lower. It is, therefore, important to continue receiving routine vaccinations against tetanus.

The development of vaccines is the main reason why tetanus cases have fallen over recent decades. The number of deaths due to tetanus in the U.S. has dropped by 99% since 1947.

All tetanus vaccines are combined with vaccines that protect people against other diseases.

Four vaccines protect against tetanus:

  • DTaP protects children below the age of 7 against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
  • DT protects children below the age of 7 against diphtheria and tetanus.
  • Tdap protects children over the age of 7, adolescents, and adults against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
  • Td protects children over the age of 7, adolescents, and adults against tetanus and diphtheria.

A rise in vaccinations has reduced the frequency of tetanus cases to make it a rare condition. Most people who get tetanus have either not received any of the vaccines or not completed the full vaccination process.

Tetanus shots are particularly important as the human body has no natural immune defense against the condition.

A person should make sure that they have had all of the recommended vaccinations before traveling abroad.

Tetanus is an infection with the spores of the C. tetani bacteria that can be present in soil and dust. When dirt enters a wound, the bacteria can grow and proliferate in the damaged tissue.

Deep puncture wounds are an ideal environment for a tetanus infection. Using dirty knives and nails or coming into contact with wooden splinters may cause small puncture injuries, which could become infected.

If a person is worried about contracting tetanus after cutting themselves on a dirty object, they should speak to a doctor immediately. The doctor can treat the wound and may administer a tetanus booster shot.

The symptoms of tetanus include:

  • tightening of the jaw muscles
  • muscle spasms, with bone-breaking strength
  • difficulty swallowing
  • overall muscle pain and stiffness
  • seizures
  • headaches
  • fever
  • changes to blood pressure and heart rate

Tetanus symptoms can cause critical health problems. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, tetanus causes death in as many as 20% of cases.

Tetanus vaccines can completely prevent tetanus. They are the only way to prevent the illness, and there is no cure if the infection enters the body through a cut or wound.

There is no natural immunity for tetanus. If infection occurs, the person’s body may have no chance to develop an immune response before tetanus becomes fatal.

Without the protection of a vaccine, the chances of tetanus infecting a penetrating wound of any kind are high.

Tetanus is an infection that enters open cuts or wounds and causes powerful muscle spasms. The first symptom often affects the jaw, as the surrounding muscles seize up and lock, hence the common name of lockjaw. The consequences of tetanus can be fatal.

A rise in vaccines has resulted in tetanus becoming a rare condition. Most cases now occur in people who have not received the vaccines or in older adults with a weakening immune system.

It is important to complete the schedule of vaccines against tetanus, as the condition can be lethal, and there is no known cure.