Tetanus is completely preventable by being immunized (vaccinated). Immunization usually protects against tetanus infection for 10 years.
In the United States, immunizations begin in infancy with the DTaP series of shots. The DTaP vaccine is a 3-in-1 vaccine that protects against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.
Td vaccine or Tdap vaccine is used to maintain immunity in those age 7 and older. Tdap vaccine should be given once, before age 65, as a substitute for Td for those who have not had Tdap. Td boosters are recommended every 10 years starting at age 19.
Older teenagers and adults who get injuries, especially puncture-type wounds, should get a tetanus booster if it has been more than 10 years since the last booster.
If you have been injured outside or in any way that makes contact with soil likely, contact your health care provider about your risk of getting tetanus infection. Injuries and wounds should be thoroughly cleaned right away. If the tissue of the wound is dying, a doctor will need to remove the tissue.
You may have heard that you can get tetanus if you are injured by a rusty nail. This is true only if the nail is dirty and has the tetanus bacteria on it. It is the dirt on the nail, not the rust, that carries the risk of tetanus.