Chrome 2001
.
Aetna Intelihealth InteliHealth Aetna Intelihealth Aetna Intelihealth
 
.
. .
.
Chrome 2001
Chrome 2001
InteliHealth
Ask the Doc
4464
Ask the Doc
Ask The Expert
Harvard Medical School
Image of a cadeusus
. .
General Medical Questions
.
Question : My doctor told me I’m overdue for a tetanus booster. I’m 64, and I wonder if it’s really necessary at my age. Can’t I just get one if I get a deep cut?
.
.
.
The Trusted Source
.
.
Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

.
.
March 11, 2014
.

 

We usually associate tetanus with stepping on a rusty nail or getting a dirty puncture wound.

But it can also result from minor injuries such as a pinprick, an animal scratch or a splinter or thorn from the garden. That’s why it’s important to keep up with tetanus immunizations at every age.

Tetanus is sometimes called “lockjaw.” It’s caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. It can be found in soil, dust, and manure. The bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin. Then, it produces a toxin (poison) that spreads through the bloodstream and lymph system. The toxin blocks the release of certain chemicals that help nerve cells communicate. This can result in abnormal muscle contractions, spasms and even seizures.

Tetanus symptoms happen three days to three weeks after you’re exposed.

Beginning symptoms usually include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Spasm of the muscle that closes the mouth (“lockjaw)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat

Most cases happen in people who’ve never been vaccinated, or who haven’t had a booster shot in the past 10 years. Although only about 50 cases happen each year in the United States, the risk of death is higher in people over 60.

It’s true that if you get a tetanus vaccine immediately after exposure to the bacterium, it can protect you. But you may not seek medical attention if you think the wound is minor. Or you may be too far from medical help when you need the vaccine.

The vaccine is very safe. You can’t get tetanus from the vaccine. And when side effects happen, they’re usually minor — mainly soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site.

Adults who didn’t get a primary series of tetanus immunizations in childhood should get three doses over 7–12 months, followed by a booster shot every 10 years. If you were immunized in childhood, you need a booster shot every 10 years.

Say you step on a nail or suffer a wound that’s dirty, and haven’t had a tetanus booster in the past 10 years. You should clean the wound and seek medical attention immediately. That should include a tetanus shot.

.
.
InteliHealth
.
Ask A Question
.
.
InteliHealth
Do You Have A Question?
.
. . .
.
Ask The Expert Archives
Topics
.
InteliHealth
.
InteliHealth

    Print Printer-friendly format    
   
dmtatd
dmtATD
dmtatd
126747
InteliHealth
1998-05-15
f
InteliHealth
NULL
411, 4464, 4581, 4582, 7991, 7992, 7995, 7996, 7997, 8122, 8438, 8463, 8464, 8465, 8466, 8467, 8468, 8469, 8470, 8471, 8472, 8473, 8474, 8475, 8476, 8477, 8479, 8480, 8481, 8482, 8483, 8484, 8486, 8487, 8488, 8489, 8490, 8760, 14219, 20807, 21346, 21349, 21351, 23926, 23938, 24017, 24025, 24075, 24151, 24510, 24519, 24549, 24869, 24878, 25107, 25518, 25646, 25968, 29367, 29516, 29595, 48666, 48812, 59367,
4581
.
.  
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.
.