How Long Is a Tetanus Shot Good for and Why Is It Important?

You’ve probably heard about the CDC report that recently made the news. In 2017, a child in Oregon developed tetanus, the first case of this infection in the Beaver State in more than thirty years.

The patient was a six-year-old boy who had never received a vaccination. He had to spend 57 days in the hospital, and his medical costs were estimated to be over $800k. Tetanus is a painful infection that doesn’t have a cure and can be life-threatening. People who had tetanus once can have it again.

The report sparked a conversation and prompted people to reflect on their own immunizations. The CDC heavily emphasized the importance of taking regular tetanus shots, as well as other vaccines.

If you’re wondering about your own safety from tetanus, here is what you need to know.

A Quick Retrospective and Some Notable Numbers

The tetanus vaccine is one of the reasons why mortality rates went down in the US throughout the 20th century. Back in 1901, nearly 2.5 people out of 100,000 died of this disease every year. But by the end of the century, the average number of cases per year dropped to under 50 in the whole country, and these were often non-fatal cases.

The change was partly because of better living conditions and because antibiotics make treatment easier even if they can’t cure the patient. But the biggest difference comes from the fact that most people in the US have taken tetanus shots.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true in some other countries. There are still some areas with high risks of infection, especially for newborns and pregnant mothers. In 2015, around 34,000 babies died worldwide due to this disease.

What You Need to Know

It is clear that taking tetanus shots is an important part of staying healthy. But how long is a tetanus shot good for and does it affect your health in any way?

Let’s look at the most important facts:

  • Receiving a tetanus vaccine once isn’t enough.
  • For the immunization to be effective, you need to receive regular boosters. Children need to repeat tetanus vaccinations several times.
  • For adults, boosters are required at least once every 10 years.
  • Tetanus develops after an injury. When you have a cut or wound, you become vulnerable to the bacterial spores that spread this disease. Many people take boosters directly after getting injured.
  • Taking a booster shot during pregnancy is good for the unborn baby. It helps prevent neonatal tetanus as well as some other dangerous diseases.
  • Tetanus vaccinations and booster shots don’t have any lasting negative effects on the body.
  • Some people have allergic reactions to these vaccines. There are also some medical conditions that prevent people from getting tetanus shots. However, this is rare.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the recommended timeline for receiving these vaccinations.

Exactly How Long Is a Tetanus Shot Good for?

Children receive the DTaP vaccine, which covers three dangerous diseases: diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s best to start DTaP vaccination very early in life. They advise that every child should receive a DTaP vaccination:

  1. When they’re 2 months old
  2. At 4 months of age
  3. At 6 months of age
  4. At 15-18 months of age
  5. At 4-6 years of age

But this doesn’t entirely complete the immunization process. At the age of 11 or 12, children are to receive a Tdap shot, which protects them against the same diseases as the DTaP vaccine.

This concludes all the immunization that children require to be safe from tetanus. Once again, newborns are safer if the mother takes a booster shot while she’s pregnant.

But what about adulthood?

As long as they received the recommended vaccinations as children, adults don’t need additional protection from whooping cough. So every ten years, they receive Td booster shots, which protect their health from tetanus and diphtheria.

This process can start around age 21-22. However, due to injuries or pregnancy, many people take booster shots before the ten-year period is through. If this is the case for you, your doctor will tell you how to proceed.

What About People Who Weren’t Vaccinated as Children?

After the age of seven, the DTaP vaccine is no longer effective. Fortunately, older children, teenagers, and adults can still receive tetanus shots.

If a person hasn’t received DTaP shots, they should take a Tdap vaccine. After taking Tdap once, it might be acceptable to switch to Td shots in the future.

If you haven’t been vaccinated, inform your doctor of your vaccination history. They can help you plan a catch-up schedule so you aren’t at risk if an injury happens.

Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Tetanus Vaccine

After getting vaccinated, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in your health.

Diarrhea, nausea, fever, and exhaustion are to be expected. The vaccinated area may become red, swollen, or painful. Babies and children may become fussy for a while, until the discomfort subsides.

But there are some danger signs you need to look out for. For example, an accelerated heartbeat and breathing issues may indicate an allergic reaction. Hives, swelling, and itching may happen as well.

According to the CDC, allergies happen only in one out of a million cases. But if you do notice any reactions that seem unusual or excessive, contact your doctor right away.

Overview – What You Need to Remember

There are a few different types of tetanus vaccine, and these usually offer protection against diphtheria too. Starting from the age of two months old, young children need to receive five vaccinations. These vaccines are called DTaP, and they aren’t given to older children or adults.

But everyone, regardless of vaccination history, needs to take a Tdap vaccine, followed by regular booster shots every ten years. For most people, this proces starts at the age of 11-12. If you have never been vaccinated before, your doctor will help you work out a schedule to catch up on booster shots.

You may also need a booster shot after an injury. Stepping on a nail is a typical way to get tetanus, but you’re at risk after any kind of injury that results in a wound.

Finally, pregnant women can and should take booster shots. This can be a good way to strengthen the child against infections.