Healthy Library

Gardeners: Time for a tetanus booster?

 April 28, 2018—With spring finally here, a lot of us can’t wait to garden. But before you start tending yours, here’s a question to ask yourself: Is my tetanus shot up-to-date?

Gardeners are particularly prone to tetanus, an often fatal disease that affects the nervous system. That’s because the bacteria that cause tetanus lurk in the soil and can enter the skin though even a tiny crack. So if you dig in the dirt, use sharp tools, and handle plants and weeds with sharp points, you have a heightened risk of tetanus.

Your best defense against tetanus is vaccination. But a tetanus shot’s effectiveness wears off over time. To protect yourself, you need a tetanus booster every 10 years.

Act fast

If you do cut yourself while gardening—and haven’t had a tetanus shot in the past decade—rinse the wound with tap water and call your doctor right away.

Besides a tetanus shot, your doctor may also give an injection of something called tetanus immune globulin, which helps prevent an infection. But there’s just a small window of time for it to work, the American College of Emergency Physicians cautions. So don’t put off getting medical care.

Know the signs

If you’re a gardener, it’s important to know the first signs of a tetanus infection and to get immediate medical care if you have them. They include:

  • Stiff neck.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Rigid abdominal muscles.
  • Spasms.
  • Sweating.
  • Fever.

Discover more do’s and don’ts for staying safe while gardening.

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