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Are You Due for a Tetanus Booster? Here's Why It Matters

Making an appointment for a tetanus booster vaccine can seem easy to put off. That tetanus shot you had years ago probably has you covered, right? You might not be as safe as you think. 

Tetanus boosters require an update every 10 years, maybe sooner if you suffer a contaminated injury. See the team at Healthy Life Family Medicine in Goodyear, Arizona, to learn more about the tetanus vaccine. 

Let’s look at the dangers of tetanus and why keeping up to date on your boosters matters.

What’s tetanus?

Tetanus occurs when the bacteria Clostridium tetani infects the body through a cut or wound, producing toxins in your body. These toxins can make muscles seize or lock up, and it can be fatal without prompt medical attention. About 30 Americans contract tetanus every year.

Stepping on a rusty nail is the most common scenario when someone mentions tetanus, but that isn’t the only way an infection can happen. The bacteria that cause tetanus are virtually everywhere in the environment and can enter through any cut or puncture in the skin. 

When do you need a tetanus shot?

The DTaP vaccine that most children receive as one of their first immunizations protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). Children need regular boosters as they grow to develop the necessary antibodies to fight off the toxin that causes tetanus.

As an adult, you need a tetanus booster every decade. Vaccine protection for tetanus starts to wear off at about the 10-year mark, leaving you vulnerable to infection from any wound.

Pregnant women receive a tetanus booster during the third trimester to protect their baby’s health as well as their own.

You can get tetanus from any open wound, so your immune system must have the antibodies to defend itself. If it’s been more than 10 years since your last tetanus booster, or you’re unsure of your immunization history, call us as soon as possible after an injury.

Why a tetanus booster matters

Tetanus isn’t transmitted from person to person, so there’s no herd immunity or way to build resistance to the toxin. A tetanus booster shot is the only way to protect yourself from contracting tetanus.

There’s no cure for tetanus. In severe cases, where the ability to swallow or breathe is restricted by muscle stiffness, you may require a feeding tube or ventilator in a hospital while you recover. People over 65 and those with diabetes have a greater risk of death.

While there are some minor side effects from the tetanus vaccine, such as fatigue, aches, and chills, they’re nothing compared to the potential nightmare of tetanus itself.

If you’re due for a tetanus booster or have questions about vaccines in general, Healthy Life Family Medicine can help. Call our office today to make an appointment.

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