What is the tetanus vaccine?

The tetanus vaccine is given to prevent tetanus disease (lockjaw), which is caused by toxin-releasing bacteria called clostridium tetani. The bacteria live in the soil and usually enter the body through a puncture wound to the skin. Once the bacterium releases its toxin into the body, that toxin causes muscle spasms and can affect the throat and jaw, paralyze the breathing muscles and even damage the heart. The vaccine is usually given as a combination vaccine -- DTaP -- which also protects against diseases such as diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). It is given routinely to children in a series of vaccines (typically completed by 4 to 6 years old) with the next booster dose given in adolescence. Tetanus vaccine booster doses are then recommended at least every 10 years throughout adulthood.
Tetanus vaccines are used to protect against tetanus, or lockjaw. Tetanus is a serious disease caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. Tetanus is not contagious, but it's usually found in dust, soil and manure. It can enter the body through cuts, puncture wounds or other breaks in the skin. When these bacteria enter the body, they produce a poison that can cause muscle contractions or spasms, making muscles tight and painful. If left untreated, tetanus may lead to seizures, paralysis and death.

There are several different types of vaccines that may prevent tetanus. Usually, one vaccine (given as an injection by a healthcare provider) protects against tetanus as well as several other diseases. A common vaccine given to children is the DTaP vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). The DTaP vaccine contains inactivated (dead) bacteria that cause all three of those diseases. This vaccine is given in a series of five injections over the first few years of a child's life (before age seven), and then booster doses of the vaccine are recommended every 10 years after that. The Tdap vaccine also protects against those three diseases, but it's licensed for adults, teenagers and children over seven years of age. Another vaccine that protects against tetanus is the DT vaccine, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria only. This is used for children under seven years of age who cannot get the pertussis vaccine. The Td vaccine is similar to the DT vaccine, but it's for adults and children over seven years of age. This is often used as a booster dose given every 10 years to protect against tetanus. The vaccines are recommended for most people, so talk to your doctor to determine which type of vaccine may be right for you or your child.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.