How Long After Injury Tetanus Shot (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 48 hours

Tetanus is a notoriously rare infection that can cause the death of the patient if it remains untreated. There are two main ways of treating tetanus. Wound care is one of the ways. The other and the more common preventive measure is immunization.

The tetanus shot is necessary to prevent the spread of the deadly bacteria that can enter an individual’s body through a skin wound. The bacteria that causes the infection is generally found in soil or manure. The tetanus immunization program consists of 5 doses. Thus, any individual who sustains an injury that breaks his or her skin may need the booster shot routine to prevent the infection.

How Long After Injury Tetanus Shot?

Injuries that result in open wounds necessitate that the person in question takes a tetanus shot in order to safeguard the individual against the harmful bacteria that may have entered his body through the wounded region. There do exist certain strict protocols that are to be followed in terms of the administration of tetanus injections.

In most countries around the world -including Britain and the USA- if an individual has already received the booster tetanus dose, then there is no need to opt for the extra tetanus shot after an injury is caused. In such cases, only the wound needs to be adequately dressed.

Nonetheless, in instances when the patient has not received the whole course of the tetanus immunization routine, he or she may have to take a tetanus shot within 48 hours of the injury. The complete tetanus immunization routine consists of 5 shots that are administered over a period of time – right from infancy to adolescence.

However, if the patient has not taken this booster course in the last 5 years or cannot remember if he has completed the course entirely, then the medics will prescribe that the booster course be repeated. This will begin with a single injection of the course being administered to the patient within 48 hours.

It is best to consult a medical professional in scenarios where you feel your injury might require you to take a tetanus shot. Usually, if the skin barrier has been broken, medical professionals will encourage you to take the booster course just to be on the safe side.

In summary:

Immunization StatusWaiting Period
Without Full Tetanus Immunization (without a tetanus shot in the last 5 years)Within 48 hours of the injury
After Full Tetanus Immunization (after 10 years)Within 48 hours of the injury
After Full Tetanus Immunization (within 10 years)No extra tetanus shot needed

Why Do You Need to Take The Tetanus Shot So Soon After Injury?

Tetanus needs to be carefully eradicated since it has life-threatening potentials. It is important to immunize yourself if you have suffered an injury that has resulted in a deep wound. Once the infection progresses to sepsis, it becomes fatal.

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According to studies, when a booster routine is used to immunize individuals against the tetanus threat, the antibodies formed in the blood of the patient will suffice to fight off a potential tetanus infection. This is the reason why patients who have received the booster dose are not given extra tetanus shots after injuries.

However, if the patient has not completed the vaccination routine and has especially not received a tetanus shot in the last 5 years, there is a severe lack of antibodies that will fight the tetanus bacteria. Thus, the first shot of the booster needs to be invariably administered within 48 hours of the injury.

This 48-hour window is important as after that the bacterial infection will start to grow and start showing symptoms. It will be difficult to annihilate it then. Moreover, when a person suffers from an injury that leads to an open wound, medical teams often treat the patient with not only a tetanus shot but also a tetanus immunoglobulin therapy.

However, this is only in cases where the doctors judge the wound to be too risky. This treatment involves the injection of antibodies specifically designed to kill the tetanus bacteria. It can also be given to patients who are fully vaccinated if their injuries are too severe.

Conclusion

Immunity against a tetanus infection is one that is lasting. However, this is only true if the person in question has completed the entire roaster of shots included in the tetanus module. Since tetanus bacteria can enter the body through open wounds, it is important to take care of these wounds while also securing proper immunization.

Doctors generally assure that if the injured patient has already taken all 5 shots of the tetanus vaccine within the last 10 years, then he or she does not need a tetanus shot after the injury. However, if this is not the case, then tetanus shots may be needed with 48 hours of the injury.

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ije/article-abstract/39/suppl_1/i102/701914
  2. https://academic.oup.com/jid/article-abstract/162/2/496/2190785
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