By Dr. Kristie
Are you overdue for your tetanus vaccine booster? With a busy family and career life, you may not have given this much thought. If this is the case, now might be a good time to look back through your records and see when you had your last tetanus booster shot.
What is tetanus and why is it important to be vaccinated against it? Tetanus is more commonly known by its less formal name of “lockjaw”. It gained this nickname because of the extreme muscle spasms it causes which can involve the entire body and send the body into cruel, involuntary contortions. The muscle spasms result from the actions of a toxin produced by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani. This bacteria enters the body through small breaks in the skin, most commonly from a simple puncture wound. Once inside the body, the bacteria produces a deadly toxin that can cause spasm and paralysis of skeletal muscles as well as the respiratory muscles that control breathing. The end result in many cases is death.
Fortunately, this is a fate that can be avoided. How? By getting a regular tetanus vaccine booster shot .You probably received several tetanus boosters shots when you were still a child in the form of a combined vaccination known as the DTP vaccine. This protects against three diseases, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. Unfortunately, even though you were vaccinated against tetanus as a child, tetanus immunity doesn’t last a lifetime. Gradually, the protective antibodies start to decline in number and you again become susceptible to tetanus should you sustain a puncture wound.
How often should you get a tetanus vaccine booster shot as an adult? As long as you experience no injury, it’s recommended that you get a tetanus booster shot every ten years. If you sustain a wound that punctures the skin, you should get a booster if it’s been longer than five years since your last one. This is to ensure you’re adequately covered in the event the Clostridium tetani bacteria entered your body through the puncture wound. Getting a tetanus booster shot is usually as simple as calling your family doctor and asking to come in for one.
What about side effects of the tetanus vaccine booster shot? Side effects are uncommon with this vaccine with the exception of occasional pain, swelling, and redness at the vaccine site. A small price to pay to avoid the perilous consequences of tetanus.
When you get your next tetanus booster shot, be sure to write down the date so you’ll be able to refer back to your records should you receive a puncture wound that could require an update. Tetanus is one disease you want to avoid.