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How often should I have a tetanus shot

"Vaccination is the best way to protect against tetanus, a serious disease caused by a bacterial toxin that affects your nervous system. Adults should receive tetanus booster shots every 10 years," says Jill Watson, MD, who practices internal medicine with Baptist Medical Associates.

Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that leads to stiffness of your jaw muscles and other muscles. It can cause severe muscle spasms, make breathing difficult and, ultimately, threaten your life.

The bacteria that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, are found in soil, dust and animal feces. When they enter a deep flesh wound, spores of the bacteria may produce a powerful toxin, tetanospasmin, which acts on various areas of your nervous system.

Tetanus bacteria can enter your body through even the tiniest cut or scratch. But deep puncture wounds – such as from stepping on a nail – are most susceptible to tetanus infection.

"If you suffer such an injury and it’s been more than five years since your last booster, you should receive another tetanus shot. If you can’t recall when you last received a tetanus shot, you should get the booster – especially if you’re pretty sure it was more than five years ago," Dr. Watson advises.

Those who’ve never been immunized against tetanus should receive the initial tetanus series – three tetanus shots given over a period of seven to 10 months.

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