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When do I Need a Tetanus Vaccine?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

As a general rule, you need a tetanus vaccine every 10 years to ensure that you are protected from tetanus. In addition, if you receive a deep puncture wound or you have a wound which is contaminated with dirt and your last tetanus vaccine was more than five years ago, you may be told to get another vaccination, just to be careful. Because tetanus is an extremely painful and debilitating disease and it is fully vaccine-preventable, there is no good reason not to get a vaccine, especially since it is an extremely safe vaccine.

People have been vaccinated against tetanus since 1924, and combination vaccines which prevent diphtheria and pertussis along with tetanus have been administered since the 1940s. There are several different combination vaccines on the market, and your doctor can select the best one for you based on his or her experience and your vaccination history.

A syringe and two vials of tetanus vaccine.
A syringe and two vials of tetanus vaccine.

Tetanus vaccines start in childhood, when children receive a series of vaccinations to help them build up antibodies to a range of diseases. If you have not been vaccinated for tetanus as a child, you will need to take a three part vaccine series before switching to an every 10 years dosage schedule; you may be asked to undergo this series if you cannot provide proof of vaccination, as most doctors would prefer to be safe, rather than sorry.

Tetanus vaccines should be given every 10 years.
Tetanus vaccines should be given every 10 years.

Many people wonder why they need tetanus boosters when single vaccinations for some other diseases, like polio, are usually sufficient. Multiple doses of the tetanus vaccine are necessary because the vaccine is a toxoid or killed vaccine. Killed vaccines are safer than live vaccines, but they are also less effective, and they will eventually wear off over time.

Contact with rusty, dirty screws may require a tetanus shot.
Contact with rusty, dirty screws may require a tetanus shot.

The benefits of getting the tetanus vaccine far outweigh the risks, but you may want to remember that this is infamous for causing bruising, tenderness, and soreness. While these symptoms are entirely normal, they can be irritating, especially if your vaccination is in a highly visible place. You should also try to time your tetanus vaccine before a period of relaxation and rest, as physical exertion can exacerbate the soreness.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

ElizaBennett

@anon70885 - To be honest, I am not sure whether you need a tetanus vaccination if you have had the disease.

*But* there is another important reason why should get a tetanus booster vaccine, or rather why you should get a Tdap shot. This shot also protects against pertussis (whooping cough), which is making a comeback in some parts of the country.

Now, whooping cough is not particularly dangerous to adults and older children, but it can be deadly to infants, and newborns can't start the vaccine series until 2 months. So do your part to protect the most vulnerable and keep your Tdap up to date! (The pertussis vaccine, unfortunately, is only available in combination, not individually.)

anon72901

have you heard of increased allergies in girls who have had the gardasil vaccine? My daughter has had to give up going near horses and now has terrible hay fever and has got every cold going since she had the vaccine. I have heard this is not uncommon.

anon70885

i was tetanus patient when i was young -- six years old. now i'm 40 years old. Do i need an ats injection again?

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    • A syringe and two vials of tetanus vaccine.
      By: Attila NĂ©meth
      A syringe and two vials of tetanus vaccine.
    • Tetanus vaccines should be given every 10 years.
      By: mangostock
      Tetanus vaccines should be given every 10 years.
    • Contact with rusty, dirty screws may require a tetanus shot.
      By: Mikhail Olykainen
      Contact with rusty, dirty screws may require a tetanus shot.
    • The benefits of a tetanus vaccine far outweigh the potentially fatal consequences of getting infected by the disease.
      By: stalnyk
      The benefits of a tetanus vaccine far outweigh the potentially fatal consequences of getting infected by the disease.
    • Children are typically required to have a tetanus vaccine before they begin school.
      By: Ilike
      Children are typically required to have a tetanus vaccine before they begin school.