This is one of the most frequently asked questions to me. My child has been injured (the urgency becomes greater if the offending object was a rusty piece of metal)! Doctor, please give him a tetanus shot!
Generally speaking, very few children require tetanus shots, following an injury. This is because most children are fully immunized as per the recommended immunization schedule.
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is a disease that is caused by bacteria that can enter the body through any injury. It can occur following even a minor cut, bruise or puncture. After entering the body, the bacteria multiply and produce toxins that affect the brain and the nervous system. This can result in either severe disease with prolonged hospitalization & residual deficits or even death.
The good news is that it is a highly preventable, if an individual has received the recommended primary immunization schedule with regular booster injections every 10 years.
So, which children require tetanus vaccine after an injury?
The need for a booster dose or a full series is decided on two factors primarily:
Previous immunization status
If a child has not been immunized, or the immunization status is unknown, or if the primary vaccination series was incomplete.
When did the child receive the last tetanus shot?
A secondary factor is when was the last tetanus shot administered?
Depending on the type of wound (clean vs contaminated), an additional shot may be required if the last shot has been given more than 5 years or if more than 10 years back.
So in general, most children will not require a tetanus shot after an injury. In any case, plain tetanus shots are completely outdated. Your child will in all probability be given a booster dose with DT (diptheria + tetanus). Please consult with your regular pediatrician or pediatric surgeon.
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