Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is this tetanus?"
Six days ago I stuck my finger on a rusty nail. I did not get a tetanus shot and Im not sure when i last received one. Now I have severe stiffness in that finger that I didn't notice until today. No other symptoms are present with the exception of a flu I am just getting over. Am I just paranoid or should I get it checked out?
I would suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. The symptoms you are having right now do not seem to be due to tetanus, but you should get a tetanus shot anyway. The reason why I believe that this is not due to the tetanus bacteria is that it takes longer for that infection and the subsequent toxin production to take hold. It takes more like weeks, not days. The fact that it takes that long for the infection to produce the tetanus toxin and subsequently cause the syndrome we call tetanus is that reason that you still have time to get the shot. Tetanus shots are supposed to last (maintain immunity against the bacterial toxin) for 10 years, but we always revaccinate people if they haven't had one for 5 years and they wind up with a cut that is dirty. For these reasons, I would suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can take a look at your cut and see if a run-of-the-mill bacterial infection is there causing the stiffness in your finger. For this, you should probably get an antibiotic. In addition, you should get that tetanus booster so that you do not run the risk of this cut causing a much more serious problem. Good luck.
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