Ask the Doctor: Tetanus Risk

Q: My house is undergoing construction and I stepped on a roofing nail. Do I need a tetanus shot?

A: Tetanus can be a severe, and sometimes, fatal disease causing rigid muscle paralysis. Contrary to popular belief, rust itself does not lead to tetanus. Rust may instead provide a place for the bacteria to stay once a nail lands on the ground. Soil, dust, and even animal feces are the preferred residence of tetanus, and deep wounds are more likely to develop infection. Wounds from clean nails, sewing needles, glass, gardening tools, and animal bites can all lead to tetanus. If it has been over five years since your last booster, or if you cannot recall when you last received one, then a tetanus booster will be necessary for a new skin injury.

Natasha Ballard, M.D.

Doctors Express

1521 Gunbarrel Rd., Suite 103

Chattanooga, TN 37421