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Do I need a tetanus shot?

Do I need a tetanus shot?
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Do you know whether you need a tetanus booster?

The first thing we need to say is: If you suspect a case of tetanus, either in yourself or someone you are caring for, get medical attention. Tetanus is an emergency.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a bacterial infection by Clostridium tetani

, which releases neurotoxins that act on the body in a similar way to the poison strychnine. The patient will die in 10–20% of cases. Recovery from tetanus takes weeks or even months.

The bacteria that causes tetanus is found in the soil, in dust and in manure and human feces. It enters the body through a cut, puncture wound or a burn.

Tetanus takes between four and 21 days to develop. The most well-known symptoms are lockjaw, trouble swallowing, fever and sweating. Spasms and stiffness spread down the body and the patient may need to be cared for in an intensive care unit.

Is my wound putting me at risk of tetanus?

As mentioned above the tetanus bacteria enters the body through a wound. Of course, you should do your best to avoid accidents. But if you do get a cut or a burn, then treat it using basic first aid measures. Get a healthcare professional to look at any wound that:

  • is larger than 5cm
  • has a jagged edge
  • has dirt or something in it such as glass
  • was caused by a human or animal bite.

A healthcare professional can clean and dress the wound. They will assess your risk for infections like tetanus and rabies and help you take steps to avoid these potentially fatal illnesses.

Do I need a tetanus booster?

The good news is that you should be protected from tetanus under the normal Canadian vaccine schedule, which includes a course of Revaxis. Revaxis gives protection against polio, diphtheria and tetanus.

But you will need a tetanus booster every ten years if you are likely to be exposed to the tetanus bacteria. Older people are particularly at risk of tetanus, not least because it may have been a long time since their last booster.

Should I get a tetanus shot before my trip abroad?

It is easier to pick up a tetanus infection in warmer, damper climates. So, if your travel plans include somewhere humid, if you will be working in agriculture or gardening or you are going to a remote area with few medical facilities, you may need to take precautions against tetanus. If you have never been vaccinated against tetanus before the adviser at your appointment with Canadian Travel Clinics may recommend the full three-dose course. If you have been vaccinated, you may need a booster shot if you haven’t had one for ten years.

Where can I learn more about tetanus?

To learn more see the Government of Canada’s tetanus information. This includes details on prevention, avoidance and treatment.

Where can I get travel vaccinations in Vancouver?

If you need an appointment at a travel clinic in Vancouver, turn to Canadian Travel Clinics. It is quick and easy to book online.