Do You Need a Tetanus Shot? The Doctors at South Tampa Immediate Care Can Help

do-you-need-a-tetanus-shotTetanus is a very serious disease caused by the Clostridium tetani bacterium, which is commonly found in contaminated soil, dust, manure, and animal feces. However, this hardy microorganism is capable of surviving for long periods of time virtually anywhere in our environment. You can become infected through a cut or burn, especially if the wound is not kept clean and properly bandaged. Other common causes include puncture by a rusty nail or other sharp object, animal bites, and tattooing and body piercing performed with unsterilized equipment. Tetanus is not contagious.

After entering the body, the tetanus bacteria multiply and produce a toxin that interferes with the nerves that control muscle movement. Symptoms typically develop within three to eight days after exposure, but can take longer. Also known as lockjaw, tetanus produces severe stiffness in the chewing muscles, which can lead to an inability to open the mouth. Muscle spasms can spread to the facial muscles, throat, and chest, resulting in breathing and swallowing difficulties. Fever, excessive sweating, and elevated blood pressure are also common. While treatment is available, it is not always effective, and complications can be life-threatening. Therefore, vaccination is your best defense.

To help ensure that you and your family are adequately protected against tetanus infection, the doctors at South Tampa Immediate Care recommend:

  • Having your children vaccinated. Your doctor will advise of the appropriate intervals for administering the tetanus vaccine.
  • Receiving a full series of three shots as an adult if you were not vaccinated as a child.
  • Keeping your tetanus vaccine up-to-date. You should obtain a booster shot every 10 years.
  • Treating broken skin carefully. Even if you don’t think there is any possibility that you could be infected, always carefully clean and bandage an open wound.
  • Reviewing your immunizations with your doctor if you plan to travel in an area where tetanus is common.

If you suffer a deep wound or believe you may have come into contact with tetanus, seek medical attention right away. To be effective, treatment must be immediate and aggressive, including proper and thorough wound cleansing. If it has been less than 10 years since your last tetanus vaccine, you will probably be protected from infection and, if your wound is not dirty or severe, you may simply require a booster shot.

For additional family health tips, feel free to take a look at our online series of health articles. If you have questions or think you may need a tetanus shot, please contact or visit the South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic today.