What is Tetanus?
Tetanus bacteria, or Clostridium tetani (c.tetani), is an anaerobic bacteria, meaning it can’t survive in oxygenated environments. Sometimes a deep wound cannot get oxygen and may be more prone to allowing c. tetani to multiple.
A very deep wound or a cut on rusty metal doesn’t automatically mean you have been exposed. Tetanus is primarily found in soil or manure and rarely around the home. In the days before automobiles were invented, horses in the streets and around our homes increased the likelihood of coming into contact with manure. This is no longer the case unless we live in a farm environment.
If the wound being treated bleeds, there is also less likelihood of an infection. Blood carries oxygen, but, as stated above, c. tetani can only thrive in an anaerobic environment.
Even if a deep puncture wound that does not bleed was caused by an object that had the bacteria on it, the act of giving a vaccination AFTER the exposure is of no value. The vaccine does not instantly kill the bacteria; the vaccine takes about two weeks for seroconversion to take place. Seroconversion is the production of measurable antibodies the body develops to a pathogen. Giving a tetanus shot after an injury provides no benefit.
If a deep non-bleeding wound in a farm-like environment with a lot of exposure to manure is sustained, the ONLY thing that could help (in addition to allowing the wound to bleed, and cleaning the wound with soap and water or hydrogen peroxide) would be the TiG (tetanus immunoglobulin) shot. Tetanus immunoglobulin is an anti-toxin, as opposed to a vaccine.
Currently there is no ‘tetanus only’ vaccine available in the United States. When you are offered this shot in an emergency room or by the doctor, they will administer either the DTaP or TDaP, depending on your age. These are both a combination vaccine consisting of Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis (whooping cough) bacteria. Please be aware that the DTaP also contains up to 625 mcg of aluminum as well as other excipients, which can be viewed by following this link.