What is Tetanus and Why Do I Need a Vaccine?

What is Tetanus and Why Do I Need a Vaccine?

Most people have heard of tetanus and probably associate it with something like stepping on a rusty nail. Although the disease is rare, it can be fatal. Fortunately, tetanus is preventable by a series of vaccines.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of this infection can be a lifesaver. However, getting vaccinated is even more important. With that in mind, it’s worth knowing who should get the vaccine and when you might need an additional dose.

What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a serious disease caused by Clostridium tetani bacteria. It is found in dust, soil, manure, and the intestinal tracts of both humans and animals. Typically, the bacteria enters the body through a deep cut or puncture wound. That’s why most people associate tetanus with stepping on a nail. However, there are many other ways to acquire the infection.

Essentially, the bacteria produces toxins that negatively affect the nervous system by interfering with communication between the nerves and muscles. Symptoms typically appear within three days of infection but sometimes take longer.

Common symptoms include muscle spasms, tightening of the neck or face muscles (lockjaw), shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, and a high fever. Many people with a tetanus infection also experience high blood pressure, heart palpitations, or irritability. 

Those who think they may have a tetanus infection need to seek emergency medical attention immediately.

People who suffer a deep injury or puncture wound may also want to seek care. It is important to ensure that you are up to date on your tetanus vaccine. If not, your doctor may recommend an additional dose, called a booster.

Who Needs a Tetanus Vaccine?

Since tetanus is very serious, yet preventable, the tetanus vaccine is recommended for everyone as part of their routine childhood immunizations. Typically, infants receive their first vaccine at about two months of age. It is generally included in the DTaP (or Tdap for adults) vaccine, which also provides immunity against diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Children receive five doses of the tetanus vaccine.

Afterward, a booster should be given every 10 years.

People who suffer an injury that puts them at high risk for tetanus who haven’t had a booster within five years will likely need to get the vaccine. If you aren’t sure whether you need a tetanus shot you should contact a healthcare provider.

Does the Tetanus Vaccine Have Side Effects?

Like all immunizations, the tetanus vaccine can cause some mild side effects. However, serious complications are rare. Those getting a tetanus vaccine can expect to experience some redness and soreness in the area where it was administered. Some people may also experience a low-grade fever. This is typical as the body mounts an immune response to the contents of the vaccine.

Of course, all vaccines pose a very small risk for a severe allergic reaction. If you have a history of allergic reactions to vaccines alert your healthcare provider ahead of time.

How to Prevent Tetanus

While the vaccine is a great way to prevent tetanus infections there are other useful approaches as well. Some of the best tetanus prevention habits are to wear sturdy footwear outdoors and take care when handling sharp objects.

If you do experience a puncture injury, you should clean the area immediately with soap and water. Doing so can help remove bacteria from the wound before it can cause an infection.

If you believe you are at risk for a tetanus infection due to not having a vaccine or due to the nature of your injury, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare provider. 

Where Can I Get a Tetanus Vaccine?

If you need a tetanus vaccine, Velocity Urgent Care is ready to help. Our team of caring providers will help review your immunization record to determine if you need a booster. If so, we can administer it on-site at one of our convenient locations in Norfolk (2), Virginia Beach (4), Suffolk (2), Newport News, Williamsburg, Woodbridge, Carrollton, Gloucester and South Boston. Velocity Urgent Care provides the Tdap vaccine for both adults and adolescents. We can also help treat puncture injuries that may prompt you to seek care.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking serious safety precautions to ensure that our locations are as clean as possible. We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure that each one of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or testing.

Don’t put your health at risk by waiting to seek out treatment!

Velocity Urgent Care offers convenient online registration that helps you limit your contact with others during a visit. You can sign up for an appointment online ahead of time and arrive when it’s time to be seen to skip the waiting room. We even offer text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible. All of our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome.

To find out more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.