Tetanus Immunization

Tetanus is also called lockjaw. It is a condition of the muscles of the body caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. Paralysis begins with the jaw and progresses through the other muscles in the body. Without treatment it can lead to death. Immunization is a way to prevent tetanus.

When you are a child, part of the required immunization series includes a tetanus shot. It is usually grouped in with diphtheria and pertussis shots to create one vaccine (DTP or DtaP) for all three childhood conditions. After the series of shots is over, it is recommended that a booster be given every ten years to keep the antibodies circulating and fighting any future tetanus bacterium incidents.

Immunizations are used as preventative measures to stop the outbreak of childhood illnesses that were big at the turn of the century and earlier. It is almost unthinkable now that kids would die of mumps, measles or other conditions that have become controlled through vaccination. That wasn’t always the case.

Tetanus is a little different from the other conditions in that it can still be contracted today - not just by kids but adults as well. Whenever you get cut on a rusty nail or a piece of fencing, everyone says to go to the doctor and get a tetanus shot to keep lockjaw away. The reason for this is not the rusty nail but the dirt that surrounds it.

The bacteria that is responsible for tetanus lives in the soil. An open wound is a danger for bacterial infection by itself, but if you keep working or kids keep playing, dirt can be introduced into that open would that contains the Clostridium tetani. Even cleaning the wound will not stop tetanus from setting in if it gets inside the body. Tetanus can be treated but it is a painful condition to bear.

Childhood immunization keeps the tetanus antibodies circulating through your system. A booster is recommended starting at pre-adolescence to keep the immunity high. After that, every ten years until you are well into your senior years will protect you. Giving a person a tetanus booster reactivates their immunity. The tetanus toxoid is an inactivated form of the toxin that is given to produce antibodies.

The side effects of the booster shot are few and short-lived. You might experience redness, itching or pain at the injection site but that will go away over time and with a few aspirin. In the meantime, your body is protected.

Tetanus is a deadly illness that is painful and can prove fatal if not treated. Anytime you get cut and there is a possibility that dirt has gotten into the wound, get a tetanus shot right away to avoid any problems.