When do I need a tetanus shot?

Fact Checked

A tetanus shot is needed if an injury involves a break in the skin and the tetanus vaccinations are not updated.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is considered as a serious health issue. If properly treated, it is usually a short-term condition. On the other hand, if not treated, tetanus can be deadly. Always bear in mind that tetanus is due to an infection with the Clostridium tetani bacterium.  It can enter the body via a cut or wound in the skin. These are often present in manure and soil.

Tetanus shot
An individual is at higher risk to be infected with tetanus if a wound is deep and if it gets dirty with manure or soil.

Close look on tetanus vaccination

The full course of tetanus vaccination is comprised of 5 doses of the vaccine. This is enough to provide the individual with long-term protection from tetanus. Nevertheless, if the individual is uncertain on the number of doses he/she have received, a booster dose might be needed after sustaining an injury that involves a break in the skin.

If the individual has received 5 doses of the tetanus vaccine, he/she is fully vaccinated and no longer needs a booster dose.

Potential risks of tetanus

An individual is at higher risk to be infected with tetanus if a wound is deep and if it gets dirty with manure or soil.

Remember that even small-sized wounds such as a prick from a thorn will allow the entry of enough bacteria into the body to trigger tetanus. If the individual sustained a wound or cut, it must be cleaned thoroughly as soon as possible to prevent the development of infection.

As long as the individual is fully vaccinated, another tetanus shot is not needed anymore. If the individual is uncertain if he/she has been fully vaccinated, a doctor must be consulted since a booster dose is required.

If the individual has a tetanus-prone cut or wound, it is vital to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, even if he/she has been fully vaccinated.

What are tetanus-prone wounds?

The cuts and wound that are likely to end up with tetanus include the following:

  • Wounds or burns that require surgery but was not performed within 24 hours.
  • Wounds or burns in which significant amount of tissue has been removed or puncture-type injuries especially if they were exposed to manure or soil.
  • Wounds that contain foreign bodies such as dirt or dust.
  • Wounds and burns among individuals who have systemic sepsis.
  • Compound fractures

If the individual sustained a tetanus-prone wound and considered to be high-risk, it is vital to seek treatment using tetanus immunoglobulin as recommended. This is a solution that contains antibodies that works by eliminating the tetanus bacteria.

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