Tetanus vaccines aren’t just for kids. Adults need to keep their tetanus vaccines current, too. If you haven’t had a tetanus vaccine within the last 10 years, make an appointment now to get a booster. Tetanus—once called “lock jaw”—is a very serious infection caused by bacteria that lives in soil, saliva, dust and manure. People usually get infected by cutting themselves with a dirty object or stepping on a nail. Landscapers and gardeners are at particular risk. Dog or animal bites also can cause tetanus infections.
Tetanus causes an extreme tightening of the muscles, including those in the throat and the jaw. People with tetanus can suffocate and die because they’re unable to swallow or breathe. Tetanus can be treated, but recovery is difficult and usually requires a long course of treatment with antibiotics. Prevention, however, is simple. Keep your tetanus vaccine up to date. If you get a puncture wound or animal bite, wash the wound thoroughly and see your doctor right away. You may need a tetanus booster.