Tetanus, sometimes referred to as lockjaw, is a bacterial infection that affects the brain and nervous system, leading to extremely painful muscle rigidity. Tetanus can also cause difficulty breathing and muscle spasms — and, if untreated, may even be fatal.
Fortunately, the tetanus shot has made this dangerous condition rare.
The tetanus infection is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. When deposited in a wound, this bacterium produces toxins that interfere with movement and brain and nervous system functions.
What Is the Tetanus Shot?
The tetanus shot is a standard immunization that infants and children receive. The most common version of this vaccine is the DTaP vaccine, which also protects against diphtheria and pertussis and is thought to be 100 percent effective. Booster shots of the vaccine are recommended every 10 years.
Tetanus Vaccination for Adults
Today, most adults have been vaccinated for tetanus as a child and only need to maintain booster shots of the vaccine. It’s not too late, however, to receive the vaccine if you did not during childhood: Adults are able to receive the DTaP vaccine. Medical professionals recommend receiving the vaccine as an adult if you:
- Weren’t vaccinated as a child
- Haven’t had a booster in more than 10 years
- Are of advanced age
- Have been diagnosed with diabetes
- Have had tetanus disease before
- Interact with young children on a regular basis
Where To Get A Tetanus Shot
If you fall into any of the above categories and are considering getting a tetanus shot, you should contact your family doctor. Additionally, some pharmacies are now offering on-site vaccinations administered by health care professionals.
Emergency Tetanus Shots
If you are badly cut and have not kept up with your 10-year tetanus boosters, you should receive a tetanus shot at a nearby urgent care facility or emergency room. It is critical that you do so soon after being injured.
A tetanus infection can enter the body through small cuts, scrapes, and scratches. If you’re cut by a metallic or rusty object or suffer a deep wound, immediately consult a doctor about receiving a tetanus shot. Keep in mind, tetanus infections can also occur as a result of burns, animal bites, or wounds contaminated with dirt or feces.
RELATED: Why Should I Get A Flu Shot?
Side Effects of the Tetanus Shot
As with any medication, the tetanus vaccine comes with some risk of side effects. These side effects are usually minor and subside after a few days. Possible side effects include:
- Arm stiffness
- Pain or soreness in the location of the shot