Tetanus Infection and Prevention


Q: I am a healthy 31 yo male, on Dec. 17 I was in Tonga and cut myself on a rusty ship, it was a fairly shallow cut and almost all the way healed now. I was wondering if I should be worried about tetanus since the ship was rusty. I believe I had a tetanus shot in 2002 or 03. I haven't had any symptoms, however, I am curious if I should have a doctor check me out just in case. Thanks.


A:   Tetanus is a condition characterized by muscle rigidity and muscle spasms.  Typical symptoms include a descending pattern of muscle stiffness.  The first sign is trismus, or lockjaw, followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty in swallowing, and rigidity of pectoral and calf muscles. Other symptoms include elevated temperature, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and episodic rapid heart rate.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should attend your local ER immediately for treatment.
Tetanus can be prevented effectively with immunizations and it is recommended adults receive a booster shot every 5-10 years.. Your last booster shot was 2002 and it is likely you possess the antibodies to protect you in the event of a tetanus infection.  you should take this opportunity to see you family doctor for another booster shot so that you are protected for another 10 years.

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