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Tetanus Booster Following Injury

Tetanus is a serious bacterial wound infection that progresses from local muscle spasms to total body rigidity and seizures. Tetanus is preventable if your child's shots (DTAP immunizations and tetanus boosters) are kept up-to-date.

The need for a tetanus booster depends on the type of wound (whether or not it is tetanus-prone) and when your child last had a tetanus shot. All puncture wounds and all cuts (breaks in the skin) caused by an unclean object pose a risk of tetanus. Cuts from a clean knife, piece of glass, etc. are not tetanus-prone wounds; neither are minor burns or scrapes because these injuries have good exposure to air. The tetanus bacteria can multiply only if buried in a wound where no air is present.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call within 24 hours if:

  • Your child has a tetanus-prone puncture wound or dirty cut and has not had a tetanus booster in the last 5 years.

Call during office hours if:

  • Your child has a nontetanus-prone wound and has not had a tetanus booster in the last 10 years. (All immunized children and adults need a tetanus booster every 10 years).

Getting a tetanus booster is not an emergency.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2005-03-15
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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