If your wound is small and clean but you're concerned about infection or whether you're immune from tetanus, start by seeing your family doctor. If your wound is severe or you're experiencing symptoms of tetanus infection (or your infant is), seek emergency care.
What you can do
If possible, let your doctor know the following information:
- When, where and how you received the injury (or any recent injury, if a wound isn't obvious)
- Your immunization status, including when you received your last tetanus booster shot (a record of vaccines you've received and when) would be helpful)
- How you've been caring for the wound
- Any chronic illness or pre-existing condition you may have, such as diabetes, heart disease or pregnancy
If seeking care for an infant other than your own, let the doctor know the mother's country of origin, her immune status and how long she's been in the United States
For tetanus, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I manage them together?
- Do I need to see a specialist?
- Are there restrictions I need to follow?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
If a wound is obvious, your doctor will inspect it. He or she will likely ask you a number of questions, including:
April 24, 2013
- Have you experienced any tentanus symptoms and, if so, when did they start?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve or worsen your symptoms?
- When were you last vaccinated for tetanus and what type of vaccine did you receive?
- Have you recently had a wound (if not obvious)?
- Tetanus: Questions and answers. Immunization Action Coalition. http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4220.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Roush SW, et al. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 4th ed. Atlanta, Ga.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt16-tetanus.html. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Tetanus. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec14/ch178/ch178i.html. Accessed Jan. 13, 2013.
- Long SS, et al. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9&isbn=978-1-4377-2702-9&uniqId=399011628-4#4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Prevention and management of wound infection. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/tools/Prevention%20and%20management%20of%20wound%20infection.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis vaccines: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-dtap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Tetanus, diphtheria (Td) or tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-td-tdap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.