If you can’t remember when your last tetanus shot was, chances are you’re due for another one. Tetanus, also called “lockjaw,” is a life-threatening bacterial disease affecting the nervous system. There’s no cure for tetanus, and while it’s common in developing countries, regular vaccinations have made it relatively rare in the United States. For adults who received basic immunizations as children, physicians recommend having a tetanus booster shot every 10 years.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF TETANUS
Tetanus typically occurs as the result of a deep puncture wound, such as a compound fracture or an animal bite that traps a particular strain of bacteria: clostridium tetani. This strain of bacteria is found in soil, dust and animal feces.
Symptoms of tetanus include:
- Muscle stiffness, particularly in the neck, jaw and abdomen
- Difficulty swallowing
- High blood pressure
- Painful muscle spasms that can be triggered by loud noises or light
- Rapid heartbeat
Muscle spasms caused by tetanus can make it difficult to breathe, leading to respiratory failure.
VACCINATIONS IN RALEIGH
There are several different combinations of vaccinations that prevent tetanus. Some are given to children as part of regular childhood immunizations. Others can be given as booster shots to adults. The Centers for Disease Control recommends tetanus vaccinations for all adults throughout their lives. The combination tetanus vaccines typically given to adults are:
1. Td, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that causes swollen glands, weakness, and airway blockage.
2. Tdap, a tetanus booster that protects against diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.
- If you have never had a tetanus vaccination—even as a child—you should get the Tdap vaccination as soon as possible.
- If you haven’t had a tetanus booster shot (Td) in 10 years, you should receive a tetanus shot.
- You may also need a tetanus booster shot (Td) if you have had a deep puncture wound that could put you at risk for developing tetanus.
- If you don’t remember when your last tetanus shot was, you should get a Tdap shot. You can receive a Tdap at any time, no matter when you had your last Td booster shot.
If you have any questions or concerns about vaccinations, or if you’ve had an adverse reaction to a vaccination before, speak with your doctor, who can guide you through the process.