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What Is a Tetanus Booster?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A tetanus booster is an injection that is used to prevent a person from developing a serious infection called tetanus. This injection is a booster vaccine, which means it is given to extend or boost a person's immunity after he has received a tetanus vaccine in the past. Eventually, a person's immunity may start to fade, so doctors provide boosters in order to ensure that their patients remain immune. Usually, each tetanus booster provides protection for about 10 years.

One of the most commonly administered vaccines is a tetanus shot. It protects against a bacterial infection called tetanus that causes serious symptoms and even death in some cases. Usually, people receive tetanus shots that afford them protection from this disease before they enter grade school. The vaccinations administered for tetanus are expected to last for a period of 10 years. Once this time has passed, a person usually receives a tetanus booster, which is typically expected to last for another 10 years.

Tetanus is not a threat that goes away after a time. Instead, a person remains vulnerable to it for his entire lifetime. As such, he will usually need a tetanus booster not just after the initial 10-year period passes from his first tetanus vaccine, but also every decade for his entire lifetime.

Unfortunately, being up to date on one's tetanus shot does not give a person 100-percent protection from the infection. If it has been a while since a person has received a booster, there is a chance he will not have 100-percent immunity. Instead, if an individual receives a deep cut or wound after about five years or more have passed since he received a booster, he may need another booster to ensure that he has the full immunity. He may also need a booster if his cut is particularly dirty or was made with a dirty or contaminated instrument.

If a person fails to get a tetanus booster in time, he could develop tetanus. In such a case, he might suffer from such symptoms as fever, difficulty swallowing, body spasms, stiff muscles, and a rapid heart rate. He may also suffer from a rise in blood pressure and excessive sweating. The infection is treatable, however, with large doses of antibiotics and antitoxin medication; an individual can usually recover within several weeks. An individual's chances of survival and full recovery are typically better if he seeks treatment early in the infection.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Jun 14, 2013

@ZipLine-- I'm not a doctor but as far as I know, tetanus boosters that are given for prevention are tetanus toxioid boosters. They contain weak strains of the tetanus bacteria.

The boosters that are given after someone has developed a tetanus infection are called anti-toxin boosters. These contain tetanus antibodies.

By serenesurface — On Jun 14, 2013

Is it possible for a tetanus booster to not be effective? Or only be effective for a few years?

My neighbor stepped on a nail in his yard last week. A few days later, he was hospitalized with tetanus symptoms. He had muscle stiffness and spasms. His wife said that they were surprised because he had received a tetanus booster about seven years back.

Either he doesn't remember when he got the tetanus booster or the booster didn't work for him. I hope it's the former because that's kind of scary.

By ZipLine — On Jun 13, 2013

I had to get a tetanus vaccination before I went to college, I think it was called a toxoid shot. Is that different than the tetanus booster shot?

Are there different types of booster vaccinations?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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