The tetanus vaccine is supplied as a division of the 5-in-1 DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine. It is a safeguard against diphtheria and whooping cough, as well as tetanus, polio and diseases brought about by Hib bacteria.
When is the tetanus vaccine given?
The 5-in-1 jab is given to babies at the times of 2, 3 and 4 months, and boosters for tetanus is suggested for pre-school kids (3 years 4 months or quickly after) and teenagers in the time between 13 and 18 years of age. In total, a full course of tetanus immunisations should include 5 vaccinations.
Tetanus vaccinations may also be offered to individuals who are scheduled to travel abroad, those who have not had a booster injection for more than 10 years and people who have suffered deep cuts or wounds.
Tetanus is a serious infection caused by a strain of bacteria known as Clostridium tetani. In most cases, the infection occurs when a wound becomes contaminated. Once bacteria have entered the body they reproduce and release types of toxins called neurotoxins. Tetanus can be dangerous and sometimes fatal if it is not treated quickly. It is now very rare for people to die from tetanus in the UK, owing to the vaccination agenda and improvements in treatments.
Symptoms of tetanus
Symptoms of tetanus include:
- Stiffness in the muscles and joints.
- Spasms in the jaw (tetanus is sometimes known as lock-jaw).
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Muscle spasms.
If you have a deep wound and you have already been vaccinated against tetanus, you will be treated using medication known as tetanus immunoglobulin. If you have not already been vaccinated against tetanus, you will be taken to hospital and put on a ventilator to help you breathe. Medication, including antibiotics, antitoxins and muscle relaxants, are usually prescribed.
Tetanus vaccines for travellers
Tetanus is still common in some countries hence you may have need of a vaccine if you are set on travelling. You should check if your vaccinations are up to date before you go and ask your GP for counsel and whether or not you need another tetanus vaccine.
Is the tetanus vaccine safe?
The tetanus vaccine is not dangerous and highly effective. Since the vaccine was initiated the number of cases has fallen dramatically and tetanus has not been diagnosed in the UK for over a decade. All vaccinations provided by doctors in the UK are completely safe and have passed rigorous tests to ensure their safety and efficacy.
Are there any risks?
It is extremely rare for anyone to suffer complications after having a routine vaccination; however, mild side-effects are common. Common distasteful effects of the 5-in-1 jab, which provides protection against tetanus, as well as diphtheria, polio, Hib and whooping cough, include:
- Slightly raised temperature.
- Loss of appetite.
- Feeling irritable and more emotional than usual (babies may become clingy).