Health Watch — Vaccinations: Tetanus

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about vaccinations adults need. How long has it been since you had a tetanus booster shot? You shouldn’t wait until you step on a rusty nail to think about that.

Although a tetanus vaccination is standard in childhood, it doesn’t offer lifelong protection. The tetanus bacterium lives in soil and usually enters the body through a deep puncture wound, but most older adults who develop a tetanus infection don’t recall a recent major injury. Tetanus causes muscle spasms and stiffness and tightening of the jaw muscles, which is why it’s also called lockjaw. Dr. Craig Rubin, chairman of geriatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, suggests that senior adults get a tetanus booster every 10 years. The tetanus booster is usually combined with a booster against diphtheria, which is a more rare infection.

Visti to learn more about UT Southwestern's clinical services in infectious diseases.


February 2008

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