Lifestyle and home remediesBy Mayo Clinic staff
Puncture wounds or other deep cuts, animal bites or particularly dirty wounds may put you at increased risk of tetanus infection. Get medical attention if the wound is deep and dirty, and particularly if you're unsure of your immune status. Leave unclean wounds open to avoid trapping bacteria in the wound with a bandage.
Your doctor may need to clean the wound, prescribe an antibiotic and give you a booster shot of the tetanus toxoid vaccine. If you've previously been immunized, your body should quickly make the needed antibodies to protect you against tetanus.
If you have a minor wound, these steps will help prevent you from getting tetanus:
- Control bleeding. If the wound is bleeding, apply direct pressure to control the bleeding.
- Keep the wound clean. After the bleeding has stopped, rinse the wound thoroughly with clean running water (or saline solution if available). Clean the area around the wound with soap and a washcloth. If debris is embedded in a wound, see your doctor.
- Use an antibiotic. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment, such as the multi-ingredient antibiotics Neosporin and Polysporin. These antibiotics won't make the wound heal faster, but they can discourage bacterial growth and infection and may allow the wound to heal more efficiently. Certain ingredients in some ointments can cause a mild rash in some people. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment.
- Cover the wound. Exposure to the air may speed healing, but bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out. Blisters that are draining are vulnerable. Keep them covered until a scab forms.
- Change the dressing. Apply a new dressing at least once a day or whenever the dressing becomes wet or dirty to help prevent infection. If you're allergic to the adhesive used in most bandages, switch to adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze and paper tape.
- Tetanus: Questions and answers. Immunization Action Coalition. http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4220.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Roush SW, et al. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 4th ed. Atlanta, Ga.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt16-tetanus.html. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Tetanus. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec14/ch178/ch178i.html. Accessed Jan. 13, 2013.
- Long SS, et al. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9&isbn=978-1-4377-2702-9&uniqId=399011628-4#4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Prevention and management of wound infection. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/tools/Prevention%20and%20management%20of%20wound%20infection.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis vaccines: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-dtap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Tetanus, diphtheria (Td) or tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-td-tdap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.