Tetanus - Prevention

Tetanus can easily be prevented through vaccination. The usual method uses a combination of vaccines that protect against three diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough; see whooping cough entry). The vaccine is given in five doses at the ages of two months, four months, six months, fifteen to eighteen months, and four to six years.

Adults should receive a booster shot against tetanus every ten years. A booster shot is a dose of the vaccine that renews a person's resistance to the disease. Adults who have never received a tetanus vaccination should begin one as soon as possible. The adult series consists of three injections over a six to twelve month period.

Side effects of the tetanus vaccine are minor. They include soreness, redness, and swelling at the site of the injection. The symptoms disappear with a few days.

Another way to prevent tetanus infections is to make sure that wounds and scratches are thoroughly cleaned. The tetanus bacterium grows only where there is no oxygen present. So a thorough cleaning of a wound will kill all bacteria. A wound should also be treated with an antibiotic cream and covered with a bandage. Wounds that don't heal should be examined by a doctor.

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