Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Preventing Tetanus

A photo of Doctor Who and his enemies, which doesn't really relate to tetanus.

When was the last time you had a tetanus vaccine? If the answer is ‘I don’t know’ or ‘more than ten years ago’, then you may wish to contact your GP to make an appointment to get vaccinated.

After a recent incident involving a colleague’s hand, a door, and their subsequent trip to the local accident and emergency department, I realised that the answer to that question was the latter in my case. I’m pretty sure that I’d not had a booster vaccination for tetanus since before leaving York to go to university in 2002, so I was overdue.

Thankfully, the vaccine is free to everyone in the UK (thank you, NHS). As I already had an appointment with the practice nurse for an asthma checkup yesterday, I just asked in advance if I could be given the vaccination at the same time. It’s mostly like any other vaccine but can make your arm hurt for up to 48 hours afterwards apparently.

Tetanus is actually pretty rare in the UK, with only three people contracting the disease in England and Wales in the whole of 2011. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have the vaccine, as though it is rare, it can be fatal. The symptoms can include lockjaw, followed by muscle spasms and stiffness, a fever, high blood pressure and an increased heartbeat. If left untreated, it can result in heart failure, and indeed 11% of those who contract the disease die. The disease is usually contracted through wounds on the skin, which is why you may be asked if you have had the vaccine recently if you present at casualty with an injury.

Some younger people may have lifelong immunity to tetanus, thanks to changes in the vaccination programme, but if you’re approaching middle age like me then you will probably need a booster vaccine every ten years. Either way, speak to your GP or practice nurse, as he/she will be able to advise you whether you need the vaccine.

One Comment

  1. Goodness the last time I had a booster was when I was a kid. For some reason I stood on a rusty nail sticking up out of some wood. As you do. Bloody hell that was over 30 years ago.