help prevent tetanus by having all of the suggested tetanus shots (immunizations).
There are three different types of tetanus shots.
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)(What is a PDF document?). This vaccine is given in a series of
five shots starting at age 2 months and ending at ages 4 to 6 years.
This is called the primary vaccination series.
Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)(What is a PDF document?). This is the first booster shot
for tetanus and one dose is given to all preteens at age 11 or 12. All teens and adults who never got the Tdap shot need one dose in place of a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) shot. And all pregnant women need a Tdap shot during each pregnancy. Tdap helps protect against whooping cough (pertussis).
Tetanus is a
disease caused by a
bacterial infection. The tetanus bacteria get in a
wound through a break in the skin or mucous membrane. A cut, puncture wound,
deep scrape, deep burn, or any injury that breaks the skin or mucous membrane
are called wounds.
The bacteria make a toxin, or poison, that
causes severe muscle spasms and seizures. Tetanus is also called "lockjaw"
because muscle spasms in your jaw make it hard to open your mouth. This makes
it hard to swallow or breathe. Tetanus can be very dangerous and can cause
death. The best way to prevent the disease is to have a tetanus shot.
How can I tell if I need a tetanus shot?
if you need a tetanus shot after a wound, first decide if the object that caused the wound
was dirty or clean. An object is dirty if it has dirt, soil, spit, or feces on
it. A clean object does not have dirt, soil, spit, or feces on it.
You will need a tetanus shot if:
Your wound was caused by something that was
clean and your last tetanus shot was longer than 10 years ago.
wound was caused by something that was dirty and your last tetanus shot was
longer than 5 years ago.
You are not sure if your wound was caused
by something clean or dirty and your last tetanus shot was longer than 5 years
You are not sure when you had your last tetanus
You did not get the first series of tetanus shots (primary
If you need a tetanus shot, call your doctor to arrange for
Some people may need tetanus
immunoglobulin (IG) for a wound that is at high risk
for developing tetanus. The immunoglobulin is usually only needed if you have
not (or do not know if you have) completed the tetanus primary vaccination
What should I do if I have a reaction to a tetanus shot?
If you have a reaction to a tetanus shot, your symptoms may include
warmth, swelling, redness at the site where the shot was given or a fever.
Home treatment can help reduce the discomfort.
Take an over-the-counter medicine for pain and
fever, such as
acetaminophen or a
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
Because of the risk for Reye syndrome, do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20
unless your doctor tells you to.
Put an ice pack on the area where
the shot was given for 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day for the first 24 to 48
hours. After 48 hours, heat may feel better.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.