Common Questions about the Tetanus Vaccine

Also called lockjaw, tetanus is a bacterial infection that results in painful muscle spasms. It is a fatal disease that used to be accounted to a significant number of deaths in the United States many years ago. Today, the tetanus vaccine has made this disease preventable. With the widespread use of this vaccine, it is now very rare not only in this country but also in other places where the vaccine is available.

Tetanus isn’t something you can acquire from another person. You can get it through skin contact with the bacteria. The tetanus bacteria is commonly found in soil, manure and dust. It can get inside your body through a cut, wound or scratch. You may also get tetanus through deep punctures from nails or knives that have been exposed to the bacteria.

Symptoms arise five to seven days after infection by the tetanus bacteria. The most common symptom is a stiff jaw, from which the name locked jaw was derived. Other symptoms of tetanus include headache, muscle stiffness from the jaw and neck to the arms/legs/abdomen, swallowing difficulties, restlessness, sore throat, sweating, fever, irritability, palpitations, and high or low blood pressure. If not treated immediately, a person can die from suffocation, another complication of this bacterial infection.

Tetanus shot is administered in the deltoid muscle or the shoulder. You must get this vaccine, if you didn’t get this when you were a child. This is received over a period of seven months to 1 year. The vaccine given is usually in combination with diphtheria. If you’re younger than 65, you need to get one that also gives protection against pertussis or whooping cough. After you’ve received your primary set, you should get a booster every 10 years.

The following adults should get a tetanus shot: if you did not receive a primary set when you were a child, if you have not received a booster in the last 10 years, or if you have recovered from tetanus disease.

Side Effects, Allergic Reactions
Even if you’re pregnant, you may receive a tetanus vaccine; however, it may not be advisable to get one that is in combination with the pertussis vaccine. Only the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine should be administered.

Tetanus shot is also not advisable for those who had a severe allergic reaction to previous tetanus vaccine or if you have a history of coma or seizures one week after getting the tetanus vaccine in the past. Be sure to talk to your doctor regarding any conditions that involve the nervous system such as epilepsy. Raise any concerns and ask questions before getting a shot.

Certain side effects have been associated with the tetanus vaccine. These include fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, soreness or swelling of the injection site. Severe allergic reactions have symptoms that include skin flushing, itching, swelling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, dizziness, low blood pressure, and respiratory problems. However, these are rare.

Common side effects meanwhile are mild and tolerable. The benefits of the vaccine obviously outweigh the common side effects. Be sure to get in touch with your doctor right away if you experience any severe allergic reactions.

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