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Home > Health & Wellness > Health Education > Are you due for an important vaccine?
Published on July 06, 2018
For those of us in the Cedar Rapids area, this summer brought back vivid memories of the Flood of 2008 and what we were doing a decade ago. The 10-year anniversary of this historic event has been a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience of our community.
For some, the anniversary carries another reminder, too: It might be time for a tetanus shot.
If you received a tetanus shot or booster around the time of the flood 10 years ago (Mercy and MercyCare administered thousands), it’s likely time for a booster shot.
It’s important to keep up with this immunization, no matter your age, because even a minor puncture wound like an animal scratch or pinprick can expose you to tetanus.
It’s a bacteria that can be found in dust, soil and manure, and it enters the body through a break in the skin. It produces a toxin that spreads via the bloodstream and lymph system, causing symptoms between three days and three weeks after the original exposure. You cannot get tetanus from another person.
Symptoms include a headache, muscle stiffness in the jaw and neck (“lockjaw”) that may spread throughout the body, trouble swallowing, sweating and fever, and/or rapid heartbeat.
The U.S. sees about 50 cases per year, typically in those who have never been vaccinated or haven’t had a booster in more than 10 years. You may be safe if you get the vaccine immediately after exposure, but it’s best to take the preventive route. There is no cure for tetanus and it can be deadly – but the vaccine makes it preventable.
Tetanus vaccine side effects are minor, like most shots: some soreness and possible redness or swelling at the injection site. You cannot get tetanus from the vaccine.
If you have never had a tetanus vaccine, you should get the original series of three doses over seven to 12 months. Everyone should receive a booster shot every 10 years after this series.
Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine should not get the shot again. Those with a history of epilepsy or other nervous system problems should discuss it with their primary care provider before being vaccinated. It is safe – and actually recommended – for pregnant women to get a tetanus shot.
Though tetanus is rare, accidents happen and you should be prepared. If you think you may be due for a booster shot, contact your primary care provider to find out or to schedule an appointment. If you are in need of a primary care provider, fill out the short, secure form at www.mercycare.org/FindADoc and we can help.