If your wound is small and clean but you're concerned about infection or whether you're immune from tetanus, start by seeing your primary care provider. If your wound is severe or you or your child has symptoms of tetanus infection, seek emergency care.
What you can do
If possible, let your doctor know the following information:
- When, where and how you were injured
- Your immunization status, including when you received your last tetanus booster shot
- How you've been caring for the wound
- Any chronic illness or condition you 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?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
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:
- Have you had tetanus symptoms, such as muscle spasms, 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)?
April 20, 2016
- Sexton DJ. Tetanus. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 8, 2016.
- Baddour LM, et al. Infectious complications of puncture wounds. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 8, 2016.
- Tetanus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/about/index.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2016.
- Tetanus. Vaccines.gov. http://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/tetanus/. Accessed Feb. 8, 2016.
- Lacerations. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/lacerations/lacerations?qt=cuts%20and%20scrapes&sc=&alt=sh. Accessed Feb. 8, 2016.