Do I need a tetanus shot?

A tetanus shot is usually needed if an injury involves a break in the skin and the vaccination record is not updated. Remember that tetanus is a serious but rare condition that can be deadly if left untreated.

The bacteria responsible for causing tetanus can enter the body via a cut or wound in the skin. The bacteria are usually found in soil and manure.

When to seek medical care

A doctor should be consulted if worried about a wound especially if:

  • It is deep
  • The wound has foreign particles or debris embedded in it
  • The individual was not able to complete the tetanus vaccinations
  • Uncertain whether the individual has been fully inoculated against tetanus
    Tetanus shots

    The doctor will assess the wound and determine if there is a need for a tetanus shot or any other treatment.

The doctor will assess the wound and determine if there is a need for a tetanus shot or any other treatment. Bring the individual to the nearest emergency department or call for emergency assistance if there is severe muscle stiffness or spasms.

Close look on tetanus vaccination

Tetanus shots are given as part of the immunization program against tetanus. A complete course of tetanus vaccination includes 5 doses that is usually enough to provide long-term protection against tetanus.

Nevertheless, if uncertain on how many doses the individual received, a booster dose is needed after sustaining an injury that breaks the skin. If the individual has received 5 doses of the vaccine, he/she is fully vaccinated and no longer requires a booster dose.

Treatment using tetanus immunoglobulin

If an individual sustained a wound prone to tetanus, seek medical care as soon as possible even if fully vaccinated. The tetanus-prone wounds include the following:

  • Wounds or burns that necessitate surgery but could not be carried out within 24 hours.
  • Wounds or burns where a large amount of tissue was removed or puncture injuries such as animal bites particularly those that came in contact with the soil or manure.
  • Wounds with foreign objects embedded such as dirt or debris.
  • Serious cases of fractures where bone pierced through the skin and at risk for infection.
  • Wound and burns among individuals who have general sepsis

If an individual has a tetanus-prone wound and considered as high risk, the treatment using tetanus immunoglobulin is recommended. This contains antibodies that eliminate the tetanus bacteria. This is needed even if the individual is completely vaccinated against tetanus.


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