How Often Do You Need a Tetanus Shot?

tetanus, vaccination

As summertime warms up, we spend more time outside doing yard work, playing with the kids, and having parties and cookouts. As fun as these times can be, hidden dangers can lurk underneath all the activity — like tetanus.


Tetanus is a disease caused by the spores of a bacterium found in dirt and animal feces. Once the spores enter the body through a cut, scrape, or other break, they form into active bacteria and release a toxin that causes painful muscle cramps, spasms, and stiffness. The muscle spasms can actually be strong enough to break your bones. One of the most common symptoms is that your neck and jaw muscles can tighten and make it very difficult to open your mouth — that’s why tetanus is sometimes called “lockjaw”.


While we commonly think of tetanus as caused by a rusty nail, it’s actually the dirt on the nail that gives you the disease. Once the spores are activated in your body, it can take anywhere from three to 21 days for symptoms to develop. Left untreated, tetanus can even lead to death in some cases.

How do you prevent tetanus?


At Family Medicine in Peterson and Totowa, New Jersey, we want you to focus on the fun of summer without the worry of getting tetanus. The best way to do this is to stay up to date on your tetanus vaccine, which is given through a shot that is usually bundled with other vaccines.


You should receive your first doses as a child, and adults should have a tetanus booster every 10 years. There are three basic types of tetanus vaccines:


Here’s the basic schedule for tetanus vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control:

Young children should get the DTaP shot at 2, 4, and 6 months; again at 15-18 months; as well as a booster shot at 4-6 years old.

Preteens and teens should receive the Tdap shot, preferably at 11-12 years old, or as soon as possible if they haven’t had it by 12.

Adults should have the Td booster every 10 years.

Mild side effects can occur with the vaccine, but most people don’t have any problems with it. Many doctors will offer a tetanus booster shot if you have an injury that requires stitches. It is also usually offered after natural disasters, such as floods, where the risk of tetanus is increased.

If you aren’t sure when you had your last booster, check with your doctor. Your child’s pediatrician should have a record of vaccinations as well. If you need a tetanus booster, Dr. Samir Khalil and his team at Family Medicine will be happy to provide you with the treatment. Call us today for an appointment.

Make sure you’re protected with a tetanus vaccine, and then enjoy your summer!

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