When to Seek Medical Care
When to call the doctor
- Individuals should know if their tetanus immunization is current; often primary-care physicians have immunization records and may be able to supply people with that information.
- If people have a wound, they should seek medical attention. If they are not immunized against tetanus or have not kept up tetanus booster shots every 10 years, any open wound is at risk of developing tetanus. Many emergency physicians advise a tetanus booster be given if the patient's last booster is between five to 10 years old because patients may not accurately recall the date of their last booster and also because not all patients' immune systems will give 10-year protection following the vaccine.
When to go to the hospital
- Most doctors can care for minor wounds with mild degrees of contamination. In addition, most doctors maintain tetanus vaccines in their offices and can, if they have the records, update anyone who is inadequately immunized. Call the patient's doctor and follow his or her advice regarding whether or not they should seek treatment in a hospital's emergency department after an injury or wound.
- If the wound is large, contains crushed tissues, or is heavily contaminated, individuals should go to the nearest hospital's emergency department for evaluation. Occasionally, both a tetanus booster and tetanus antibodies are required if patients have any wound that is tetanus-prone. Tetanus antibodies are reserved for people with incomplete immunizations with a tetanus-prone wound.
- If individuals have a recent injury and are starting to experience muscle cramps or spasms at or near the injury, they should go to a hospital's emergency department immediately.
- If individuals have trouble swallowing or have muscle spasms in the facial muscles, go to the emergency department for treatment immediately.
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