Tetanus is a disease caused by a
bacterial infection. The bacteria make a toxin, or
poison, that causes severe muscle spasms. Tetanus can be very dangerous, but
you can get a shot to prevent it. Tetanus is also called "lockjaw" because
muscle spasms in your jaw make it hard to open your mouth. Tetanus also causes
seizures and makes it hard for you to swallow or
In the United States, most
people have had shots to prevent tetanus, so the disease is relatively rare.
People who have never been immunized or haven't had a booster in the last 10
years are more likely to get tetanus. This includes people who recently moved
to the U.S. from countries where tetanus shots are rare.
Many colleges require students to get a meningococcal vaccine before moving into a dorm. Some summer camps also require it. And there's good reason.
Meningococcal disease can become life threatening quickly, and teens are at higher risk of getting it. It's a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in teens. Meningitis is a dangerous inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The vaccine protects against four types of meningococcal disease.
Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)(What is a PDF document?): Tdap is the first booster shot for tetanus and is
recommended at age 11 or 12. It's also recommended for all teens and adults who never had the Tdap shot. And all pregnant women need a Tdap shot during each pregnancy.
If you never had tetanus shots as a child, or if
you're not sure if you had them, you'll need to get 3 tetanus shots in about a
1-year time span. After that, 1 booster shot every 10 years will work for
Get a tetanus shot as soon as possible if you have a dirty cut
or wound and 5 or more years have passed since your last tetanus shot. Some
people may need tetanus immunoglobulin (TIG) for a wound that is at high risk
for tetanus. The
immunoglobulin is usually only needed if you have not
(or do not know whether you have) completed the tetanus shot series.