Many people worry about getting tetanus after an injury if they haven’t had their tetanus shots (usually given 6 times over childhood in the DTaP vaccine). Here are some things to know as you decide with your health care provider if you should get a shot:

  • Fortunately, only about 1 child five years and under catches tetanus every year in the U.S. It is a rare condition. Between 1 and 5 older kids/teens catch it each year.
  • Tetanus can happen without even having a known source of injury, but again this is rare. 
  • Clean cuts that can be washed out and even may need a few stitches are very low risk wounds. A minor poke or scrape by a metal dirty object is also low risk.
  • Even though most ERs will advise you to get a tetanus shot after most wounds or animal bites, you can also ask the doctor there how risky your child’s particular wound is as you decide with them whether or not to get a tetanus shot.
  • The highest risk wounds are when someone is impaled by rusty metal that is dirty with animal feces-contaminated soil, such as on farms, and the wound cannot be adequately cleaned out. Any cut from a dirty or rusty object that is open and can be thoroughly cleaned is lower risk.
  • If you are unvaccinated and suffer a high-risk wound, realize that getting the first tetanus shot at this time won’t do much to protect your child from this injury, as it takes some weeks for the shot to be effective. If you already have had some tetanus shots, getting a booster at this time may help. However, you can get an immediate-acting tetanus immune globulin shot (called TIG) that works right away to neutralize any tetanus from that current wound. 

Call us for an appointment if you would like to discuss this further. 

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