Vaccinate Your Baby

Tetanus

Click on the photo above to open the Tetanus page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a severe disease caused by bacteria. When the bacteria enters a person's body it releases a toxin that can cause jaw cramping (person can't open mouth), painful muscle spasms and stiffness, trouble swallowing, headaches, seizures, fever, sweating, high blood pressure and fast heart rate. Tetanus can lead to dangerous complications including bone fractures, pneumonia, and breathing difficulty, and possibly even death. Tetanus kills 10-20% of people who get the disease.

Unlike other vaccine-preventable diseases, which are transferred from person to person, tetanus bacteria are found in places such as dirt/soil, dust and manure. Tetanus gets into the body through any break in the skin, like a cut, puncture (with a nail or needle), scrape, burn, animal bite, crush injury, or injury with dead tissue. More rarely, tetanus can get into the body through scrapes, surgical procedures, insect bites, dental infections, broken bones (when the bones go through the skin), chronic sores and infections, and intravenous (IV) drug use.

The Statistics

Due to the vaccine, tetanus is now uncommon in the United States, with an average of 29 reported cases per year. Almost all cases of tetanus occur in people who have never received a tetanus vaccine, or adults who don't stay up to date on their tetanus booster shots.

The Vaccine

Everyone needs protection from tetanus.

The DTaP vaccine (combined diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) protects children from tetanus. For the best protection, children need all 5 doses of DTaP. The vaccine should be given at 2 months of age, 4 months of age, 6 months of age, between 15 -18 months of age, and between 4- 6 years old.

The Td (combined diphtheria and tetanus) and Tdap vaccines (combined tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) protect adolescents and adults from tetanus. Two doses of the Tdap vaccine are recommended for adolescents. The first dose should be given to preteens at age 11 or 12 and the second dose should be given between 13-18 years of age.

Adults need a booster shot of Td every 10 years. For adults who didn't get the Tdap vaccine as a preteen or teen, the easiest thing to do is to get Tdap instead of their next regular Td booster. The dose of Tdap can be given earlier than the 10-year mark, so it's a good idea for adults to talk to a doctor about what is best for them.

Pregnant women should get the Tdap vaccine during their third trimester. (Tdap is recommended for women during every pregnancy).

Additional Resources

 

Back to Vaccine-Preventable Diseases »