Tetanus Shot for a Small Scratch
You need a tetanus shot for a small scratch if your tetanus immunization is not up to date and the injury caused a break in your skin.

If your tetanus immunization is not up to date and the injury caused a break in your skin, you need a tetanus shot even if it is a small scratch or scrape.

Thus, you need a tetanus shot if:

  • You got a wound from a dirty object (objects contaminated by dirt, soil, spit, or feces), and your last tetanus shot was more than five years back, or you do not remember when you had your last tetanus shot.
  • You got injured by a clean object, and you received your last tetanus shot more than 10 years back, or you do not remember when you had your last tetanus shot.
  • You are not sure whether the object causing injury was clean or dirty, and your last tetanus shot was more than five years back, or you do not remember when you had your last tetanus shot.
  • You did not receive your primary vaccination series (five DTaP or diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis shots starting at two months of age and ending at ages four to six years).

Tetanus is a rare but serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated. Therefore, you must get the tetanus vaccine if fall into the above categories.

How should you care for a wound?

Besides getting a tetanus shot, you must follow good wound care practices.

  • Wash your hand with soap and water before handling the wound.
  • Rinse the wound under running tap water.
  • Wash the area around the wound with soap and clean water. Avoid the entry of soap, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine-containing disinfectants in the wound because this may irritate the injury.
  • Apply pressure with a clean bandage or soft cloth in case of bleeding.
  • Keep the wounded area elevated if possible to reduce bleeding and swelling.
  • If any debris or dirt is present in the wound, you may seek medical help to remove it. Alternatively, you may remove it with a tweezer disinfected with alcohol if that can be safely done. Rinsing the wound with clean water may help remove the debris.
  • Cover the wound in clean dressing after applying an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or petroleum jelly and change the dressing every day. Wash your hands with soap and water before changing the dressing.

When to contact your doctor

You must seek medical care if:

  • You need a tetanus shot
  • The bleeding does not stop
  • You cannot remove the debris from the wound
  • The wound becomes too swollen or painful
  • There is pus discharge from the wound
  • You develop fever
  • If the wound is big or deep

What are the side effects of a tetanus shot?

Tetanus vaccine is generally safe and effective. It is essential to prevent tetanus because it is a serious bacterial infection that can even cause death.

Most side effects of the tetanus vaccine are mild and include:

Serious side effects rarely occur with a tetanus shot.

Seek medical care immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms after a tetanus shot:

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Medically Reviewed on 1/24/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tetanus. https://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/about/prevention.html

RxList. Tetanus. https://www.rxlist.com/tetanus-side-effects-drug-center.htm