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How to know when you need a tetanus shot

Tetanus shots are not a one-and-done kind of thing.

When you think “tetanus shot,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably a sharp, rusty nail. While stepping on an old piece of metal can certainly transmit the bacteria to your bloodstream, tetanus (also known as lockjaw) can come from minor injuries such as a pinprick, animal scratch, or splinter from the woods.

Unfortunately, tetanus shots are not a one-and-done kind of thing. That’s why it’s important to keep up with your immunizations at every age. Here’s what you need to know.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a bacterial disease that affects your nervous system and is transmitted through cuts and wounds. Because the condition leads to painful muscle contractions in the jaw and neck, making it hard to breathe, it’s also commonly known as lockjaw.

While tetanus is extremely rare (there’s only an average of 30 cases each year), it’s got some pretty serious consequences. Symptoms include things like jaw cramping, muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, trouble swallowing, fever, and sweating, more severe consequences can occur. The bacteria can cause uncontrolled tightening of the vocal cords, broken bones, blockages in the lungs, pneumonia, breathing difficulties, and between 10-20 percent of the time, it’s fatal.

When do you need the tetanus vaccine?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should receive tetanus shots at the following ages:

  • Babies and young children need three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTaP) vaccine to build up high levels of protection, and then two booster shots to maintain that protection through early childhood. Doses are recommended at two months, four months, six months, 15 through 18 months, and four through six years.
  • Preteens should get one dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine to boost their immunity between the ages of 11 and 12 years.
  • Adults should get one dose of the tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine every 10 years.
  • If you are pregnant, you should get a Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of every pregnancy to help protect your baby from whooping cough in the first few months of life.

Even if you’ve kept up to date on your shots, if you experience a puncture wound, it’s best to get a booster shot for extra protection.

The only exception to these rules? If you’ve had a severe allergy to a diphtheria or tetanus shot in the past. If you’ve been diagnosed with specific illnesses or conditions like seizures, nervous system problems, or Guillian-BarrĂ© Syndrome, or if you’re unsure of the risks, talk to your doctor before receiving a tetanus shot.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

This content is for informational purposes only. Please contact your physician for more information and advice.

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