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Do I need a tetanus vaccine after an accident or injury?

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

Tetanus is a rare but serious and potentially life-threatening condition. The tetanus vaccination is given five times over the course of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. If completed, then it is said to give individuals lifelong protection against tetanus. Therefore, if you have completed the schedule and had an injury that puts you at risk, you will not need any further doses.

However, if there is any uncertainty about whether you have completed your vaccination schedule and you have injured yourself and broken the skin, then you may need to receive a booster dose.

What if I am up to date with my vaccines but I have a wound I am worried about?

Under certain circumstances, even if you have completed your tetanus vaccination schedule, you may still require treatment with tetanus immunoglobulin if you have a wound that is prone to tetanus. The immunoglobulin contains antibodies to kill the tetanus bacteria.

Public Health England defines tetanus-prone wounds as:

  • wounds or burns that need surgery, but where surgery can't be performed within 24 hours
  • wounds or burns where a significant amount of tissue has been removed, or puncture-type injuries such as animal bites, particularly if they have had contact with soil or manure
  • wounds containing any substance that shouldn't be there, such as dust or dirt (foreign bodies)
  • serious fractures where the bone is exposed and prone to infection (compound fractures)
  • wounds and burns in people who have systemic sepsis, a fall in blood pressure resulting from a serious bacterial infection

When will I need treatment after an injury?

If you have symptoms or signs of tetanus, you should call an ambulance and attend the emergency department straight away. 

If you are unsure or have not completed your tetanus vaccination schedule and are worried about a new open wound, exposed to dirt, soil, or foreign objects like glass - then you should attend your nearest urgent treatment centre or speak to your doctor for further advice. The health care professional will decide if you need any further treatment or vaccination. Your doctor can assess the wound and decide if you need a vaccination or any other treatment. 

As mentioned above you may still need treatment if there is concern about your wound, even if you are up to date with your vaccinations. 

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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