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Are you due for a tetanus shot?

Some vaccines you only need to get once and others require boosters at specific intervals. Tetanus falls into the latter category. If you can't remember the last time you got a tetanus shot, you are probably overdue and at risk.


Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a result of bacteria entering the bloodstream. A tetanus shot is a very effective method for preventing infection and the serious side effects it can cause. For most people, a tetanus shot offers 10 years of protection. After that, however, a booster is required.

Tetanus is one of the few vaccines adults need to remember to keep up to date. Your first tetanus shot was likely administered when you were a baby. In the U.S., it's usually grouped with other vaccines into a shot called a DTaP, which prevents diptheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. The Center for Disease Control recommends the DTaP vaccine series be administered at the following ages.

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • 6 months

  • 15-18 months

  • 4-6 years

But some parents choose to forgo this series because it's a lot of shots for a tiny person. The CDC has a catch up schedule for those who didn't get shots at the recommended ages. However, even if you did receive the DTaP series, you still need more doses.

The next tetanus shot should be received between the ages of 11 and 12 and it's called Tdap. After that, you should get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years.

So, if you adhered to the CDC schedule, you should need tetanus booster shots at the following ages.

  • 21-22

  • 31-32

  • 41-42

  • 51-52

  • 61-62

Your doctor may change the type of tetanus booster once you are over the age of 65, but you will still need a booster every 10 years.

That may seem like a lot of shots, but it's certainly worth the investment. Tetanus is a terrible (and preventable) infection. If you do forget your booster shot, you will be at risk for the rather unfortunate symptoms:

  • Spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles (trismus)

  • Stiffness of your neck muscles

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Stiffness of your abdominal muscles

  • Painful body spasms lasting for several minutes, typically triggered by minor occurrences, such as a draft, loud noise, physical touch or light

  • Fever

  • Sweating

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Pulmonary embolism

The worst-case scenario is death. If you do get a tetanus infection, it isn't curable. Rather, doctors will manage your symptoms. This may involve hospitalization. It's far better to prevent tetanus than to try to manage the illness.



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I'm Kat, the author of the healthy, happy blog. Using my background in science, personal training, and writing, I post about how to be successful in four main areas of your life: finances, body, mind, and home.

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