Tetanus vaccination is highly effective. However it does not provide permanent protection. To stay protected, you should get a periodic booster shot. Are you due? Let’s find out.
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is an infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. This vaccine-preventable disease cannot be spread from one person to another. The bacterium typically enters the body through a cut, bite, or puncture wound from contaminated soil, stool, saliva, and dirty or rusty objects.
Once inside the body, the bacterium releases a toxin that causes muscle stiffness and spasms in the neck, jaw, shoulders and back. When left untreated, symptoms gradually worsen, causing serious complications such as bone fractures, changes in blood pressure and heart rate, seizures, or even death.
The time between contamination and when symptoms occur can last anywhere from several days to even months.
Tetanus can be contracted anywhere in the world, so it is important to ensure you are immunized. Make sure to plan ahead if you travel to a destination where sanitation conditions are less than optimal. Due to vaccination, tetanus cases in Canada are very rare.
Types of tetanus vaccine and boosters recommendation
The tetanus vaccine is part of the regular childhood vaccination schedule. The last dose is given between the ages of 14 and 16. After that, you will periodically need a booster shot of the combined tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine. A combined tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccine booster is also recommended for pregnant women.
The vaccine is injected into the muscle of the upper arm. It is usually well tolerated, but it may cause pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site. To ease any discomfort, you can apply a numbing cream to the area before the shot or use a painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Where to get vaccinated for tetanus?
Many pharmacies offer vaccination services. Ask your pharmacist whether these services are available at your pharmacy. Alternatively, you may consult a medical clinic or community healthcare centres. Tetanus-diphtheria booster vaccination is offered free of charge (certain injection fees may apply) in every Canadian province for qualified individuals.