When was your last tetanus shot? Knowing the causes and signs of tetanus, as well as the appropriate cadence for vaccinations, can help you prevent this painful and potentially fatal condition. Dr. John Martinez, urgent care physician with Dignity Health Medical Foundation in Woodland, shares four things adults should know about tetanus.
1. To start, what is tetanus?
Tetanus is a rare, potentially fatal disease that is caused by a toxin released by the Clostridium tetani bacteria. This bacteria is commonly found in dirt and can be transmitted by stepping on a rusty nail (which is often associated with tetanus) or even from being pricked by a rose thorn.
Once contracted, tetanus can cause really painful muscle spasms and often manifests in the jaw and neck area. This can interfere with your ability to breathe, and in serious cases it can cause death. You may also experience fever, sweating, and difficulty swallowing.
2. When should an adult get a tetanus shot?
Luckily, tetanus is preventable with the tetanus vaccine that is commonly given along with dipthera and pertussis vaccinations, known as the TDAP vaccine (which stands for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis).
Adults should get a tetanus booster every ten years, although in our urgent care we recommend boosters after five years for patients we see that have a dirty or contaminated wound.
3. Are their certain wounds that are more likely to contract tetanus?
When it comes to risk of contracting tetanus, the location of the wound doesn’t matter. A dirty wound in any part of the body should be thoroughly rinsed and cleaned and then if appropriate, a tetanus booster should be given. Again, you want to seek medical attention if your wound has been exposed to any dirt, rust, etc.
5. Anything else adults need to know about tetanus?
Remember that for puncture wounds or other injuries like as lacerations where you think you may have contracted tetanus, you can visit your local urgent care. If there is a more significant injury, such as a large laceration longer than 4 to 5 inches or more serious injuries, then the emergency department is more appropriate.