Tetanus Shots For You and Your Baby

Tetanus is a fatal illness requiring immediate hospitalization and several weeks treatment should it strike. It is caused by bacteria that originate in the ground, dust and intestines of several animals. These find their way into the human body through wounds, cuts and scratches. Tetanus affects the nervous system by initiating painful contractions of the muscles which cause rigidity that can lead to paralyzing of the respiratory system and even death. A common symptom of tetanus is a stiff jaw that cannot be opened and swallowing becomes impossible, thus tetanus is also referred to as “lockjaw”. It used to be a common cause of death in babies before the days of immunization and is still a risk for babies born in unsanitary conditions or whose umbilical cord becomes infected with the bacteria after being cut.

Although it is rare and not contagious, tetanus can and should be prevented through vaccination. The vaccine is known as tetanus toxoid and is standard for babies in the US at around the age of two months. By the time your child starts school (or around the age of five) they should have already completed a full round of tetanus shots. After the initial vaccination series it is advised that you take a booster every ten years thereafter. Your doctor can give you more information on the tetanus vaccination schedule.

The Side Effects Of Tetanus Shots

Since tetanus shots are a medication, there is always the risk of side effects or allergic reactions for babies and adults. Here are some of the possible side effects to look out for;

•    Immediate side effects are usually mild. A slight inflammation where the shot was administered may arise. Some soreness or swelling may develop. This can be reduced by taking an aspirin-free pain reliever like ibuprofen. Your doctor will give you an adequate prescription. Within a day or two, this should have subsided.

•    More severe problems, although rare, may involve a severe allergic reaction. The lips, tongue or face may swell seriously. If in the past you took a tetanus shot and experienced a severe allergic reaction, it is recommended that you desist from any further tetanus shots.

•    Breathing difficulties and constriction of the throat.

•    Feeling of weakness or dizziness

•    Increased heart beat

•    A couple of days or weeks after the shot, you may experience an intense pain in one or both of your upper arms. This pain may last up to several months after the shot.

Should you or your child take the shot and have a reaction that exceeds what you may have been prepared for, then you need to seek medical help. Remember, side effects can take various other forms. If you or your child have a specific health condition and/or are on medication, your doctor will advise you accordingly regarding the tetanus shot. Also, if you have a disease that affects the immune system, such as HIV or AIDS, consult your doctor before taking the tetanus shot. Also, if you are moderately or very ill, wait until you recover before getting immunized. And if you are a pregnant or a nursing mother, consult your doctor before taking the shot.

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