Preventing Tetanus Infections - Topic Overview
How can I prevent tetanus?
help prevent tetanus by having all of the suggested tetanus shots (immunizations).
There are three different types of tetanus shots.
Why is it important to prevent tetanus?
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