Stay Protected: Get a Tetanus Booster

Tetanus shots are required every 10 years. Are you up-to-date with your shots?

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 26, 2007

Working on handyman projects this summer? You might be due for a tetanus booster; critical protection if you get a cut or wound. Men under age 59 are three times more likely than women to get tetanus (a potentially fatal disease) because they have not had booster shots.

August is National Immunization Awareness month -- a good time to ask your doctor about vaccine boosters you might need. These vaccine shots are advised for adults:

Tetanus. The Td vaccine (tetanus and diphtheria) needs to be repeated every 10 years. Tetanus and diphtheria are both serious diseases caused by bacterial toxins.

Chickenpox (varicella). This vaccine is recommended for adults who are not already immune to the virus. Chickenpox infection can be very serious when it develops after childhood. Pregnant women and people with certain immune system problems should not receive this vaccine. Vaccination requires two doses.

Hepatitis A. This vaccine is advised for adults who live in communities where outbreaks of hepatitis A have recently occurred, or who will be traveling to certain foreign countries, like those in Central or South America. Also, adults with certain risk factors -- such as long-term liver disease -- should be vaccinated if they are not already immune. Vaccination requires two doses. Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver and usually comes from consuming contaminated water or food.

Hepatitis B. Adults who have not received the hepatitis B vaccine series should be immunized when occupation, travel, health conditions, or lifestyle increases their risk of exposure. Adult hepatitis B immunization requires three injections. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver and can be sexually transmitted.

Influenza (flu).Flu shots are advised for these groups of people:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic health conditions -- asthma, heart, or lung disorders, or an impaired immune system -- which puts them at high risk for flu complications
  • People who work with others who are at risk for flu complications (such as health care workers and caregivers of children younger than 24 months)

Get the flu vaccine each year because the strains of flu covered by the vaccine change each flu season.

Nonpregnant, healthy people between ages 5 and 49 can be immunized with either the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine FluMist.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR). Adults born after 1957 may need MMR vaccination if they do not have evidence of immunity. Women should avoid becoming pregnant for 28 days after vaccination with MMR vaccine. Women who are known or suspected to be pregnant and people who have certain impaired immune systems should not receive the MMR vaccine.

Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV or "pneumonia" vaccine). This immunization is recommended for all people 65 years and older. It is also advised for those who have a chronic disease, such as heart or lung disease, do not have a spleen, or have a damaged spleen. There is a one-time revaccination booster after five years. This vaccine is different from the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine that is recommended for children.

Meningococcal vaccine. This vaccine should be considered for those who are:

  • At increased risk of becoming infected, such as persons with a damaged spleen or removed spleen.
  • At risk for exposure: travel to areas of the world where meningococcal disease is common, such as to certain parts of Africa or to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj.
  • Going to live in a college dormitory or military barracks.

This vaccine protects against infection that can cause life-threatening meningococcal disease, including meningitis.

HPV vaccine (human papillomavirus vaccine). The HPV vaccine is currently recommended for women 26 or younger who haven't already received it. You should not get this vaccine if you are pregnant. The HPV vaccine protects against types of HPV responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

Before you become pregnant, discuss your vaccine and immunization history with your health care provider. If you need vaccines for chickenpox or measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), wait at least four weeks after the immunization before becoming pregnant.

If you are pregnant, your children should receive their immunizations on schedule. You do not need to speed up or delay your child's immunizations.

Show Sources

SOURCES: WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with emedicine: "Tetanus." WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Immunizations." CDC "Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule-United States, October 2006-September 2007."

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