Tetanus, often called “lockjaw,” is a bacterial infection that causes serious painful muscle spasms and can lead to death.

The tetanus shot or vaccine has made tetanus a preventable disease. Thanks to its widespread use, it has become very uncommon in the United States. Even so, many adults in the United States need to be vaccinated against tetanus infection because there’s no cure, and 15% to 22% of victims will die.

You can’t get tetanus from another person. You can get it via a puncture or other wound. Tetanus bacteria are commonly present in manure, soil, and dust. The tetanus bacteria can infect an individual even via a tiny scratch. But you’re more possibly to get tetanus via deep punctures wounds created by knives or nails. The bacteria travel through nerves or blood to the central nervous system.

A puncture wound — like stepping on a nail, does not usually cause much bleeding. But these wounds are often deep and also can be hazardous because of the risk of infection.

The tetanus shot (aka TDaP or TD) should be given as soon as possible after puncture wound to shun contracting tetanus — the toxin of which can cause muscle rigidity. The onset of tetanus can begin within three days. Some people associate the condition with lockjaw, but the muscles of the whole body can be affected. Spasms of the larynx, irregular heart rhythm, and broken bones from the force of muscle spasms are all feasible from a tetanus infection. Additionally, a booster shot should be given every ten years whether or not you have had a puncture wound or other injury that could cause infection.

When Should You Get the Tetanus shot?

Luckily, there’s a shot that most individuals receive when they are infants or children. The DTaP shot immunizes against tetanus, pertussis, and diphtheria. Infants get the vaccination at two months, four months, six months, and also 15-18 months when they are between ages 4 to 6.

Lots of people then get boosters every ten years. If you’ve got a puncture wound where you think tetanus could be a possibility and have not had a booster shot/vaccine within the past five years, you should get to the hospital within 24hours.

It is essential to know that the size of the puncture wound does not matter when it comes to tetanus. If you are concerned about the puncture wound but have had a shot within the past five years, you can still go to the hospital to be safe. If you decide not to go to the hospital, you should carefully monitor the wound and as well should go to the hospital if it gets worse.

What are the symptoms of tetanus?

The symptoms result from a toxin formed by tetanus bacteria. Symptoms often start around one week after infection. But this may range between three days to three weeks or even longer. Moreover, the most common symptom is a stiff jaw — which can become “locked.” This is how the tetanus disease came to be called lockjaw.

The following are also include tetanus’s symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Starting in the jaw, muscle stiffness, then the neck and the arms, abdomen, or legs
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Sweating and fever
  • High blood pressure and Palpitations
  • Causing a strange-looking steady smile or grin, muscle spasms in the face

Tetanus, as mentioned above, can cause death from suffocation if not tested.

Moreover, according to the medical provider, a tetanus shot is good for ten years. As a rule of thumb — if you can’t remember right away how long ago you had one… you need one. A lot of times, if it’s been over five years, the doctors will give it anyways as a booster. Your best bet is to get it within 24 hours of the puncture wound.

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