Tetanus is an infection that affects the nervous system and brain. The infection is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria which causes the muscles to stiffen particularly the jaw muscles. If left untreated it may cause fatality. It affects breathing, causes spasms and usually takes 4 days to 3 weeks for the first symptoms to appear. The infection is very difficult to treat and, as a result, is better prevented with a series of vaccines and booster shots throughout childhood and intermittently in adulthood.
The bacteria is present in soil, manure and dust, and exists anywhere. Over the years the effect of the bacteria has been reduced through intensive vaccination programs. The bacteria enters the body through open wounds, punctures and to a lesser extent scratches found on the skin surface.
Why do I need to get a tetanusshot?
It is important to get a tetanus shot because of the prevalence of the bacteria in most parts of the world. While the most common way of getting the infection is through puncture wounds after stepping on a rusty nail, it is also quite possible to become infected through a pinprick, an animal scratch or even a bug bite. It is recommended that each person receive the tetanus shot from infancy to adulthood. The infection is rare because of the vaccination programs now available. Despite these programs the bacteria may still affect anyone not sufficiently protected. Infants and elderly people remain the most prone to this infection.
When is a tetanus shot administered?
The tetanusshot is a required vaccination for infants. Children are not allowed to enter the school system until they have been immunized against tetanus. The first sets of vaccinations are administered 5 times over a period of months. Once a child reaches 2 months he will be given a tetanus shot and then given subsequent boosters up until the age of five. The vaccination remains effective for ten years after which another booster shot should be administered to improve efficacy.
Do I need to get a tetanusshot?
You should get a tetanus shot, ideally, every ten years. If you have not had a tetanus shot in recent memory and have a wound that is very deep and potentially infected with the bacteria, you may need to have another booster shot to prevent infection. Deep wounds should be washed so as to prevent dirt to get in. Antiseptic should not be placed on a wound that is exceedingly deep as this will be ineffective and will not deliver protection against the infection. In addition to a tetanus shot your doctor may decide to give you an injection with tetanus immune globulin which works very quickly to ward off the infection. However, your response time will make a difference. If you wait too long to get the tetanus shot and the immune globulin, you may succumb to a probable tetanus infection. Always seek medical care hastily if you are badly wounded.