Getting Vaccinated Against Tetanus
Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, causes painful, uncontrollable muscle spasms. It is most often a complication of a deep or dirty wound. Because tetanus can be a deadly illness, getting vaccinated against it is highly recommended.
Children are routinely vaccinated against tetanus beginning as early as 2 months of age. This is done with a vaccine mixture that not only protects against tetanus, but also against two other serious diseases that can affect children and adults: diphtheria and pertussis.
To guard against these, children are given four shots of the DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis) vaccine between ages 2 months to 2 years and a fifth shot at four years of age.
Adults who did not get the series of shots when they were younger can also get a series of three "catch up" tetanus vaccinations.
It is important to talk to your doctor about this vaccination if you have a wound that puts you at risk for tetanus. This is even more important if you don't remember when you had your last booster shot or think you may have never been vaccinated.
The Tetanus Booster
After receiving the initial series of tetanus shots, adults still need a routine tetanus booster shot once every 10 years. It is called a "booster" because it boosts your body's ability to guard against tetanus. There are two types of tetanus booster shots:
- Td — Tetanus/diphtheria
- Tdap — Tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis
Tdap is like Td with added protection because it also protects against pertussis, a serious respiratory disease.
A single shot of Tdap is recommended for adolescents 11 or 12 years of age, and in place of one Td booster for adults up to age 64.
Your doctor may also suggest one of these booster shots if you have a deep or dirty wound and haven't received one within the past five years or don't remember when you got your last shot.
This article is not meant to replace a doctor's advice. Be sure to talk to your doctor about immunizations you may need.