About The Tetanus Vaccine

The Tetanus Vaccine Explained

Tetanus, frequently referred to as lockjaw, is a bacterial infection. It causes painful spasms in the muscles; in some cases, tetanus can be fatal. Fortunately, tetanus is a preventable disease with an effective vaccine available. Frequent vaccination has made lockjaw rare in the United States. Vaccines and boosters remain a good idea for adults, as the disease cannot be cured and as many as 20 percent of those who contract it will die.

Tetanus cannot be transmitted from person to person. The bacteria that cause tetanus enter the body through cuts or similar wounds that make the bloodstream vulnerable. Tetanus bacteria are common in soil, dust, and manure. While the bacteria can enter the body through surprisingly small wounds, infection is more likely when the skin is deeply pierced via a puncture. The human bloodstream carries tetanus bacteria from the infection site to the central nervous system.

Tetanus Symptoms

The negative effects produced by a tetanus infection are actually the result of a toxin the bacteria produces. Symptoms become detectable about a week after a person is infected, but this is highly variable. In specific cases, symptoms may manifest in as little as three days or take three weeks (or more) to appear. Stiffness in the jaw is the most common symptom. As the infection progresses, the jaw can become “locked,” explaining tetanus’s more informal name.

Potential tetanus symptoms also include:

* Muscle stiffness – typically starts in the jaw, then travels down the body
* Headache
* Restlessness and irritability
* Seating and fever
* Difficulty in swallowing
* High blood pressures
* Palpitations
* Muscular spasms in the face, producing a characteristic smile or grin.

If left untreated, a tetanus infection can cause death via suffocation.

Tetanus Vaccination: How And When?

The tetanus vaccine is typically administered as a series of injections in the deltoid muscle of the shoulder. If you have never been vaccinated for tetanus before, you need to begin the process by receiving the “primary series” vaccination administered in three doses. The first dose protects against three different diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (AKA whooping cough). The three conditions together provide the name for the vaccine series: Tdap. The next two doses in the series are referred to as “dual vaccine” or Td. These strengthen the initial protection provided against tetanus and diphtheria. Altogether, the series is administered over a timespan ranging from seven to 12 months. The pertussis portion of the vaccination is particularly important for individuals who may come into contact with young children or their parents.

Once you’ve received the primary vaccination series, you need a Td booster at 10-year intervals.

Do I Need The Tetanus Vaccine?

If any of the following statements apply to you, you need a tetanus shot:

* Did not receive the primary series vaccinations as a child
* Have not received a booster shot within 10 years
* Have gone through a tetanus infection

Is There Anyone Who Should Not Get The Tetanus Vaccine?

You should refrain from taking the Tdap vaccine series if receiving it previously caused a severe allergic reaction. Tdap vaccine is also discouraged if you experienced seizures or coma following a previous vaccination. Consult with a doctor before vaccinating if you have any nervous system issues, including epilepsy, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. Severe swelling or pain after a previous tetanus vaccination may also be a cause for concern.

It is completely safe for pregnant women to receive the tetanus vaccine. Current best practice, in fact, recommends a new Tdap vaccination for every pregnancy in order to minimize the risk of contracting or transmitting pertussis.

If you are experiencing any sort of moderate or severe acute illness, wait until you heal before getting the Tdap vaccine.

What Ingredients Go Into The Tetanus Vaccine?

The Tdap and Td vaccines contain neutralized tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis toxins. While they are not toxic they can trigger an immune response. Live bacteria are never used in these vaccines.

What Side Effects Or Risks Are Associated With The Tetanus Vaccine?

Bear in mind that the potential danger of a tetanus infection is much greater than any potential complication caused by the tetanus vaccine. The tetanus shot cannot cause a tetanus infection itself. The vaccination may sometimes cause some mild side effects. Common examples include:

* Swelling, redness, or swelling at the injection site
* Aches in the head or body
* Fatigue
* Fever

A very small number of people may experience anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, to the tetanus vaccine. Anaphylaxis symptoms present themselves within minutes of the vaccination. They include:

* Flushed skin, swelling, and itching
* Difficulty breathing / respiratory distress
* Dizziness, accelerated heartbeat, low blood pressure
* Nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, or vomiting

If you experience these more severe symptoms, get to a hospital or call 911 immediately. Describe when you were vaccinated and what happened afterward. Make sure your reaction is recorded and reported to appropriate healthcare authorities.

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