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What's it like: To get a tetanus shot, something recommended for tornado cleanup volunteers

The shot is recommended for Oklahomans who will be working in and around tornado debris.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: May 31, 2013 at 11:06 pm •  Published: June 2, 2013

Why get a tetanus shot?

Tetanus is an infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. It's found everywhere in the environment, including soil, dust and manure. People generally develop tetanus because of a contaminated wound. Tetanus is often referred to as “lockjaw,” because it can cause jaw cramping.

If you step on a rusty nail or cut yourself while working outside, it's recommended that you get a tetanus shot. With the recent tornadoes, public health nurses have traveled to disaster sites to administer tetanus shots. With so much metal and debris, it's more likely that people cleaning up might cut themselves and need a tetanus shot to better ensure they don't get sick.

What happens when you get the shot?

A medical professional will disinfect your arm and deliver the shot usually through a needle that's about one inch long. The needle has to be long enough to get to the muscle in your arm. Children and infants might get tetanus shots in their upper leg because the muscles aren't as developed in their arms.

It's recommended that children get a round of tetanus vaccinations, starting when they're a few months old. An adult who has never gotten a tetanus shot should complete the initial tetanus series of three tetanus shots. The first two shots are generally given at least four weeks apart, and then the third shot is given within six months to a year after the second shot. After that series, it's recommended to get a tetanus shot every 10 years.

Does it hurt?

This will depend on your pain tolerance. Some people don't feel the needle go in when they get the shot. Afterward, you will probably have some soreness in your arm. The amount of time your arm is sore varies from person to person.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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