a female doctor administering a vaccine to a patient

Are You Up To Date with Your Tetanus Shots?

How Long Does a Tetanus Shot Last?

Today, getting an infection, like tetanus, from a cut is not impossible but very uncommon. This is all thanks to the tetanus shot.

Tetanus is a disease that develops from bacteria that enters the body through an open wound or cut. This bacteria, called Clostridium tetani, is typically found in soil, dust or manure. However, burns, animal bites or non-sterile injections may also cause tetanus.

Tetanus Symptoms

Usually, tetanus symptoms develop within eight days of the bacteria entering the body. After about eight days, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Stiffness in jaw muscles
  • Spasm of jaw muscles
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Abdominal muscle stiffness
  • Painful and intense body spasms that last for a few minutes
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate

Generally, if you are experiencing the above symptoms, contact your doctor and find out when your last tetanus shot was. If you haven’t had a booster in the past 10 years, it may be required to get one. Further, it’s important to take this condition very seriously, since tetanus can turn into a fatal disease, as well as result in various complications.

Treatment and Prevention

The bad news is that there is no cure for tetanus. This is why it’s so important to ensure you stay up to date with all your shots. However, there are various ways you can further reduce your risk of tetanus.

Taking Proper Care of Your Wound

Controlling the bleeding is the first priority. Following that, always clean out any wound and remove dirt, foreign objects or dead skin. Do this immediately after injury to ensure no bacteria enters it. After, ensure you cover the wound properly, preventing any other bacteria or dirt from entering the area. If the wound is deep, take the proper precautions and seek out immediate medical care.

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Seeking Out Proper Medications

Your doctor may recommend antitoxins, which help neutralize any toxins in the body. However, this only works if the bacteria have not yet bound to the nerve cells. Antibiotics, sedatives and other medications may also help your body fight off the infection.

Further, a tetanus shot may be advised if you have suffered a serious and deep wound requiring immediate medical attention. This is frequently done as a precaution, regardless of when your last tetanus booster or shot was.

The Importance of the Tetanus Vaccine

Tetanus is a very serious medical condition. Complications may develop from tetanus potentially leading to death. This occurs when muscle spasms prevent normal breathing, causing a lack of oxygen and cardiac arrest. Other complications include broken bones, also caused by intense muscle spasms, and a blood clot blocking the main artery leading to the lungs.

It’s important to note that once the bacteria involved in tetanus has bonded to nerve cells, it cannot be removed. Thus, you want to make sure you always stay up to date with all your vaccines and boosters.

How It Works

The tetanus shot works by helping your body's immune system create the proper antibodies against tetanus, without experiencing any symptoms of sickness. It is usually recommended to get a tetanus shot after five years of the last one, waiting no longer than 10 years. This is because the levels of antitoxin tend to leave the body gradually, which leaves you more susceptible to tetanus.

How Often It Needs to Be Administered

So, how long does a tetanus shot last? Usually, the tetanus vaccine is administered as part of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis shot. This prevents whooping cough, a throat and respiratory infection, and tetanus. This shot is often delivered within five rounds at two months of age, four months of age, six months of age, 15 to 18 months of age, and four to six years old. It has further been recommended that another dosage of this shot is received between the ages of 11 and 12, and then a booster every 10 years after that.

If you’re unsure when your last vaccination or booster was, contact your doctor or public health. Usually, they should have the information you need to determine if you need a booster soon or not. Further, your doctor will make recommendations for vaccines or boosters at your regular check-up. It’s highly advised to follow these recommendations to ensure you maintain the best health possible.

For this vaccine, there are few side effects. However, mild side effects may include swelling, redness, or tenderness at the site of administration for up to two days afterwards. When you keep up to date with your boosters, the tetanus shot is 100% effective at preventing tetanus from occurring.

The Bottom Line

Staying up to date with all your vaccinations and boosters is of the utmost importance. You never know when you might experience a deep wound, scrape, animal bite, or cut, resulting in the inevitable. The best way to fight infection or disease is to prevent it in the first place. Ensure you know your vaccination or booster schedule and get your shots when you need them.

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