When To Get a Tetanus Shot After a Cut

Cuts & Wounds

Apr 20, 2023


When to get a tetanus shot after a cut depends on the severity of the cut, how you got the injury, and when your last tetanus booster shot was. If there is dirt or a foreign object in your scrapes and cuts and you haven’t gotten a tetanus shot in the last five years, it’s a good idea to get an updated vaccine to protect yourself.

Tetanus is a disease caused by a toxic bacterial infection that affects the nervous system by gaining entry to the body through broken skin. Although tetanus is a rare condition, it can be fatal if untreated, which makes staying on top of your vaccines quite important. In the United States, it is very common to receive five total tetanus vaccinations throughout childhood and a tetanus booster shot once every 5-10 years for adults. 

Keeping track of when you’ve had your booster shots can be very helpful in determining if a new tetanus shot is required after an injury.

How do you know if a cut requires a tetanus shot?

To the average person, a cut or small puncture wound is usually not a cause for concern.  However, there are cases and scenarios where medical care may be required. You should seek medical attention right away if your cut or wound:

  • Contains dirt or is contaminated by other dirty substances (soil, feces, etc.)
  • Contains a foreign object (a nail, a needle, etc.) 
  • Is quite large 
  • Is showing signs of infection (Keep reading: How to know if a cut is infected)

In order to understand when to get a tetanus shot after a cut, you must be aware of what tetanus does to your body and how to identify the symptoms. 

Symptoms of tetanus: What to look for

Because tetanus is a disease that attacks the nervous system, the symptoms will be more internal and won’t be as visual in regards to the wounded area. Be on the lookout for:

If you have not had a tetanus booster shot in the last five years and you begin to notice any of the symptoms above, head to an emergency room immediately for a shot. However, if you have received five doses of the tetanus vaccine, you are considered fully vaccinated and do not need a booster shot.

How long do you have to get a tetanus shot after a cut?

When it comes to tetanus, the sooner the better. Symptoms of tetanus may not begin to appear until a week after the injury, so as a rule of thumb, try to get the tetanus booster shot within 48 hours of the injury. If tetanus is left untreated, your body could face long-term complications such as airway obstruction, heart failure, muscle damage, and/or brain damage. 

Even if you are unsure whether you need medical attention, it’s always best to get any injury checked out by a professional. And in the case of a possible tetanus bacterial infection, you need to seek help from an emergency room that can see you as soon as possible. You need Complete Care.

Complete Care provides hospital-grade wound care without the wait

Spring invites most homeowners to do some much-needed yard maintenance — but these tasks can often invite injuries that can make it important to know when to get a tetanus shot after a cut before you truly need to know it. As part of our spring outdoor safety tips, try to avoid using rusty equipment and always wear protective gear such as gloves and closed-toed work shoes. They will be your biggest protectors against tetanus bacterial infection.  

If you find yourself with an injury that is contaminated and you believe you could be at risk for contracting tetanus, head to a 24/7 Complete Care facility for assistance. We have ER locations all over Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs. Whenever you need us, we are here to help you.

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