You may need a tetanus vaccine if the injury has broken your skin and your tetanus vaccinations are not up to date.
Tetanus is a serious but rare condition that can be fatal if untreated.
The bacteria that can cause tetanus can enter your body through a wound or cut in your skin. They're often found in soil and manure.
When to get medical advice
See a GP or contact NHS 111 if you're concerned about a wound, particularly if:
- the wound is deep
- the wound contains dirt or a foreign object
- you have not been fully vaccinated against tetanus
- you're not sure whether you have been fully vaccinated against tetanus
The GP can assess the wound and decide if you need a vaccination or any other treatment.
You may need additional treatment for a serious or dirty wound that's considered to be tetanus-prone.
Go to your nearest A&E department immediately, or call 999 for an ambulance if you develop severe muscle stiffness or spasms.
Tetanus vaccination programme
Tetanus vaccination is part of the NHS vaccination programme.
A full course consists of 5 doses of the tetanus vaccine. This should be enough to give you long-term protection from tetanus.
But if you're not sure how many doses you've received, you may need a booster dose after an injury that breaks your skin.
If you've definitely received 5 doses of the tetanus vaccine, you're fully vaccinated and do not need a booster dose.
Treatment with tetanus immunoglobin
If you have a tetanus-prone wound, additional treatment may be given, even if you've been fully vaccinated.
Tetanus-prone wounds are described as:
- wounds or burns that need surgery, but where surgery cannot be performed within 24 hours
- wounds or burns where a significant amount of tissue has been removed, or puncture-type injuries such as animal bites, particularly if they have had contact with soil or manure
- wounds containing any substance that should not be there, such as dust or dirt (foreign bodies)
- serious fractures where the bone is exposed and prone to infection (compound fractures)
- wounds and burns in people who have systemic sepsis, a fall in blood pressure resulting from a serious bacterial infection
If you have a tetanus-prone wound and it's considered to be high risk, treatment with tetanus immunoglobulin is recommended.
Tetanus immunoglobulin is a medicine containing antibodies that prevent the tetanus toxin working, stopping its effects on the nerves. It provides immediate, but short-term, protection from tetanus.
You'll need tetanus immunoglobulin even if you're fully vaccinated against tetanus.
Page last reviewed: 12 July 2022
Next review due: 12 July 2025