Ten-Year tetanus shots

When I’ve asked gardeners when they last received a tetanus shot most respond, “Oh yeah, that’s the shot you get when you get a dog bite, right?”

Wrong. Whether you’re planting bulbs or are dividing iris, believe it or not, you are exposing yourself to tetanus. Tetanus is a bacterium that is widespread in the environment and is naturally present in soil, compost, and manure.

In the 1940’s immunizations against tetanus were so routine that cases of infection dropped from about 500-600 annually to about 30-50 cases today. Medical professionals note that tetanus is ubiquitous in the environment and it can enter the body through a cut or open wound. Because of the close proximity between gardeners, soil and tools, it would be prudent to be immunized on a routine basis.

Just do it!

One local medical professional noted that in his 18 years working as a Board-certified emergency medical professional, he has yet to encounter a case of Tetanus. The reason, he cites, for not seeing many cases of tetanus in the United State is that we are the most prophylactic country in the world. But with this word of caution he says, “Don’t be caught off guard. You don’t have to have a big gash to get tetanus. Even minor cuts or cracks in the skin from dryness can be opening enough for tetanus to enter the body.”

From a personal standpoint, I can’t tell you how many times I may nick or cut myself when pruning a shrub or just general gardening. The Center for Disease Control recommends a tetanus injection booster once every ten years. Chances are, if you can’t remember when you last had your booster, you have gone too long. If you don’t keep an immunization record and question whether or not you have had the booster, it won’t hurt to get another one.

Symptoms associated with tetanus begin with stiff muscles starting from the head and working their waydown. Many folks remember this condition referred to as “lock-jaw.” Because this is a neurological disease, muscle spasms and sweating are also classic symptoms. Even with prompt medical attention, the disease is fatal in one in 10 cases. The very best way to avoid it is keep current with your immunizations!

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