Tag: tetanus shots

What Are the Recommended and Minimum Ages and Intervals Between Doses of Vaccines?

Most parents likely don’t think about the minimum age or minimum intervals between vaccines, as they just get their kids vaccinated according to the routine immunization schedule.

Things don’t always go according to schedule though…

Recommended and Minimum Ages for Vaccines

After their birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, your baby’s next vaccines are usually at two months.

Can you get them earlier?

When necessary, many vaccines can be given earlier and faster than the standard schedule.
When necessary, many vaccines can be given earlier and faster than the standard schedule.

Yes. The minimum age for the first dose of rotavirus, DTaP, IPV, Hib, Prevnar, is 6 weeks.

Some other vaccines can be given earlier than their recommended age too, including:

  • the first MMR vaccine, which can be given as early as age 6 months in certain high risk situations, like traveling out of the country or in an outbreak situation, although this dose will have to be repeated once the child is 12 months old
  • the 4th dose of DTaP, which can be given as early as age 12 to 15 months, as long as at least 4 to 6 months have passed since the third dose
  • the 2nd dose of Varivax, which may be given as early as 1 to 3 months after the first dose
  • the Tdap vaccine, which can be given as early as age 7 years, instead of the more typical 11 to 12 years
  • the HPV vaccine, which can be given as early as age 9 years, instead of the more typical 11 to 12 years

Why would you get a vaccine early?

What if you are going to be traveling just before you infant is going to be 2 months old? Or your 9 year old stepped on a rusty nail, and it had been just over 5 years since his last tetanus (DTaP) shot?

Recommended and Minimum Intervals for Vaccines

In addition to earlier ages, you can sometimes get vaccines more quickly, on an accelerated schedule.

For example:

  • the minimum interval between the 1st and 2nd dose of rotavirus, DTaP, IPV, Hib, Prevnar is 4 weeks, instead of the standard 2 months
  • the minimum interval between the 2nd and 3rd dose of rotavirus, DTaP, IPV, Hib, Prevnar is 4 weeks, instead of the standard 2 months
  • the minimum interval between the 1st and 2nd dose of HPV is either 4 weeks (3 dose schedule) or 5 months (2 dose schedule)
  • the minimum interval between the 2nd and 3rd dose of HPV is 12 weeks
  • the minimum interval between the 1st and 3rd dose of HPV is 5 months, instead of the standard 6 months

Why give these vaccines more quickly than usual?

The usual reason is that a child is a little behind and is working to get caught up.

Absolute Minimum Ages for Vaccines

It is important to remember that in some cases, there are some hard and fast rules about minimum ages. That means that if you get these vaccines any earlier, they won’t count and you will likely have to repeat them, including getting :

  • the 3rd dose of hepatitis B before 6 months (24 weeks) or sooner than 8 weeks after 2nd dose and  16 weeks after 1st dose
  • the first dose of MMR, Varivax or hepatitis A before 12 months
  • the 4th dose of Hib before 12 months
  • the 4th dose of Prevnar before 12 months
  • the 4th dose of DTaP before 12 months
  • the 5th dose of DTaP before 4 years
  • the 4th dose of IPV before 4 years

Sticking to the routine schedule helps to avoid vaccine errors, like giving a vaccine too early. In some situations, the 4 day grace period helps if a vaccine is given a little early.

More on Recommended and Minimum Ages and Intervals Between Doses of Vaccines

Can You Treat Tetanus Without a Tetanus Shot?

Why would anyone want to try and treat tetanus without a tetanus shot?

That’s a good question…

Misinformation about tetanus from the PIC.

Why would a doctor tell others that tetanus could be treated without a tetanus shot?

That might be a question for a state medical board…

Can You Treat Tetanus Without a Tetanus Shot?

As most people will notice, even looking at the ironically named Physicians for Informed Consent’s own post, you don’t treat tetanus without a tetanus shot.

“Tetanus is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization, immediate treatment with human tetanus immune globulin (TIG), agents to control muscle spasm, aggressive wound care, antibiotics, and a tetanus toxoid booster. If tetanus immune globulin is unavailable, Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV) can be used.”

CDC on Tetanus for Clinicians

Even in the study that they used as a reference clearly used both tetanus immune globulin and a tetanus shot.

What might be confusing to some folks, is that tetanus toxoid, is synonymous (has the same meaning) as:

  • tetanus vaccine
  • tetanus shot
  • Td (tetanus toxoid + diphtheria toxoid)

So like most people with tetanus, this patient received both tetanus immune globulin and a tetanus vaccine, a fact I tried to point out so that visitors to Physicians for Informed Consent could get true informed consent about their vaccine choices.

The comment that got me banned from posting on Phyicians for Informed Consent.
As often happens on anti-vaccine sites, my comment was quickly deleted and I was banned from posting further messages.

And fortunately, the patient, who’s previous immunization history was unknown, got better!

Treating Tetanus With a Tetanus Shot

Why did he have tetanus?

The case they are talking about occurred in Japan, and again, it isn’t known if the patient had ever received a tetanus vaccine.

“In Japan, tetanus toxoid was introduced in 1968, so elderly adults who were born before 1968 have high risk of tetanus.”

Tomoda et al. on Tetanus without apparent history of trauma

He was born in 1950 and although he had no history of recent trauma, “he grew vegetables in a field as his hobby.”

As most people know, gardening is a risk factor for getting tetanus.

And with such a long incubation period, it is very likely that he had a minor wound or injury while gardening, was exposed to tetanus spores, and later developed tetanus symptoms.

Over 100 years ago, we did treat tetanus with just tetanus immunoglobulin, but that was before the tetanus vaccine was developed.
Over 100 years ago, we did treat tetanus with just tetanus immunoglobulin, but that was before the tetanus vaccine was developed.

The long incubation period is also the reason that giving a tetanus vaccine works to prevent you from getting tetanus even after you have been exposed. Tetanus spores have to germinate, the bacteria have to grow and then produce exotoxins. And then the exotoxins have to travel to different sites in your nervous system, where they act as neurotoxins.

Hopefully, before they do, the dose of tetanus vaccine you got when you pricked your finger on a thorn, stepped on a nail, or cut your leg, etc., will have already induced you to start making antibodies against the exotoxins – antitoxin. Just in case they don’t, in a high risk case, you also would have gotten a dose of tetanus immune globulin for an immediate dose of antitoxin – antibodies against the exotoxins.

The same thing happens if you have already developed tetanus symptoms. A dose of tetanus immune globulin helps to neutralize neurotoxins that haven’t already started doing damage, and you get supportive care until you recover. Plus antibiotics to kill the bacteria so they won’t make more exotoxins and a tetanus shot.

Why not just give tetanus immune globulin, as the post from Physicians for Informed Consent implied you can do?

It is mostly because a tetanus infection doesn’t stimulate any natural immunity and the immunity you get from tetanus immune globulin is temporary, so won’t prevent a relapsing or recurrent case.

Before the use of tetanus vaccines became standard, it was well known that tetanus relapses were possible.
Before the use of tetanus vaccines became standard, it was well known that tetanus relapses were possible.

And because no one would substitute a treatment that is known to work well, a tetanus vaccine with tetanus immune globulin, and switch it out for one that might be riskier and have no extra benefits.

Using immune globulin alone was once the recommended treatment. That was before the tetanus vaccine was developed though. Back then, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, folks with suspected tetanus got treated with anti-tetanic serum that was made in horses. The main problem with this tetanus antitoxin was that it could sometimes trigger serum sickness.

Fortunately, a tetanus vaccine was soon developed and it’s use with tetanus immune globulin helped make deaths from tetanus very rare.

Of course, tetanus is still around. Although it is a vaccine-preventable disease, it will never be eradicated, like smallpox.

“This case had no apparent portal of entry; there was no history of trauma, and no site was found on physical examination. However, this is not uncommon; no obvious entry site was reported in approximately 26% of cases in Japan.”

Tomoda et al. on Tetanus without apparent history of trauma

And not specific to Japan, that you can get tetanus without a history of trauma should be what really concerns folks in this article that the Physicians for Informed Consent has decided to spotlight.

It is a great reminder that vaccines are necessary.

More on Treating Tetanus Without a Tetanus Shot

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Who do you turn to for health advice?

Even if it’s your pediatrician, with the rise of holistic pediatricians, that doesn’t mean that you are getting good advice.

In general, if the advice you are getting lacks evidence that it is safe and effective, relies on anecdotes and testimonials, and is labeled as ‘alternative,’ then it is a safe bet that it is bad advice.

Learn the Risks of Following Bad Advice

Some folks seem to be drawn to this type of advice though.

Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.
Kat Von D has decided that she will be raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.

As long as they think it is natural, holistic, and is the opposite of what mainstream health experts say to do, some parents will jump at the chance of trying the latest fad, even if it has no benefits and lots of extra risks.

Take giving your kids raw milk for example. Health experts have been warning about the dangers of drinking raw milk for years and even work to keep selling it outlawed in most communities, but some parents still give it to their young children. This is despite the fact that it has no health benefits and isn’t even fortified with vitamin D!

Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?
Would you give your kids raw milk if you knew it could make them critically ill?

What’s worse than giving your kids raw milk? How about skipping your baby’s vitamin K shot? Although it has no major risks, parents of many anti-vaccine and holistic type Facebook groups on the internet are often encouraged to skip this shot.

The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
The article, translated from Polish, describes anti-vaccine parents and their baby (Maluszek), who died of vitamin K deficiency bleeding because they skipped his vitamin K shot.

How come they never warn folks that their baby might die in agony if they skip the shot? After all, there is a very good reason that we started to give all babies vitamin K shots – to stop vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

Just like there is a reason that we started to pasteurize milk – to keep us all from getting critically ill from contaminated milk.

And why we take antibiotics for severe infections, and not essential oils.

“If one gets a cancer diagnosis, they need to detox the toxins that have accumulated in the body, minimize further exposure and boost the immune system to fight the cancer. This is done NATURALLY. Traditional medical approaches (drugs, chemo, radiation) only FURTHER damage the body and immune system.”

Brandy Vaughan for Learn the Risk

And why we take chemotherapy for cancer, and not coffee enemas.

Mud wraps don't cure liver cancer.
Mud wraps don’t cure liver cancer.

And why most of us don’t think to try chiropractic, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, reflexology, or other non-evidenced based therapies when our kids are sick.

Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn't need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Could someone search for advice on Google on treating a bite from a rabid animal and come away thinking their child doesn’t need rabies shots from an anti-vaccine website?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Why don’t people get rabies very often any more? It’s not because folks are no longer at risk, although the risk is less because dogs and cats are now vaccinated. It is because the vast majority of people get treated if they are exposed to an animal that might have rabies.

Remember when the six-year-old boy in Florida didn’t after touching a rabid bat? He died.

It’s just like the reason kids don’t get stuck by lightning very often. It’s not because lightning doesn’t happen anymore. It’s because we get a lot of warnings about thunderstorms and we know to go inside at the first sign of lightning in the area. Lightning strikes are rare because we take steps to reduce our risk of getting hit.

Why don’t folks get tetanus that much anymore? Again, most people are vaccinated, and they get boosters if they have wounds that puts them at extra risk. While we know what happens when unvaccinated kids are exposed to tetanus and don’t get treated, that isn’t a risk that you will read about on anti-vaccine websites or Facebook groups.

They also don’t tell you that kids in the US still die of diseases like Hib and rotavirus. And there are still measles deaths in the US.

That’s why the great majority of us get vaccinated, because we understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and that skipping or delaying any vaccines simply puts our kids at risk to catch one of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent.

What to Know About the Risks of Following Bad Advice

You might get lucky and have a good outcome when you follow bad advice, but you should at least understand the risks of what might go wrong if you truly think you are making an informed decision.

More on the Risks of Following Bad Advice

How Anti-Vaccine Are You? Take Our Quiz.

It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd. You don’t get vaccinated and you don’t vaccinate your kids, and instead, you simply rely on the fact that everyone else around you is vaccinated to protect you from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Would you vaccinate your high-risk child?
Would you vaccinate your high-risk child? Photo by Janko Ferlic.

Of course, this is a terrible strategy, as we are seeing with the increase in cases of measles and pertussis, etc. It is much better to learn about the importance and safety of vaccines, get fully vaccinated, and stop these outbreaks.

This hasn’t seemed to have deterred most anti-vaccine “experts” yet, as they continue to spout their anti-vaccine myths and misinformation and push their anti-vaccine talking points.

But as they continue to tell you that vaccines don’t work, how about asking what they would do in these ten high-risk situations?

Amazingly, some folks continue to try and justify skipping vaccines and accept the risk of disease, even when that risk is much higher than usual and they could be putting their child’s life in immediate danger!

How will you do with our quiz?

Would you choose to vaccinate in these situations?

1. Baby born to mother with hepatitis B.

You are pregnant and have chronic hepatitis B (positive for both HBsAg and HBeAg). Should your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?

Background information:
Many anti-vaccine experts tell parents to skip their baby’s hepatitis B shot, saying it is dangerous, not necessary, or doesn’t work (typical anti-vax myths and misinformation).

However, it is well known that:

  • from 10 (HBeAg negative) to 90% (HBeAg positive) of infants who are born to a mother with chronic hepatitis B will become infected
  • 90% of infants who get hepatitis B from their mother at birth develop chronic infections
  • 25% of people with chronic hepatitis B infections die from liver failure and liver cancer
  • use of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine series greatly decreases a newborn’s risk of developing a hepatitis B infection (perinatal transmission of hepatitis B), especially if HBIG and the first hepatitis B shot is given within 12 hours of the baby being born

Would your newborn baby get a hepatitis B shot and HBIG?

2. Your child is bitten by a rabid dog.

Your toddler is bitten by a dog that is almost certainly rabid. Several wild animals in the area have been found to be rabid recently and the usual playful and well-mannered dog was acting strangely and died a few hours later. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies and unfortunately, the owners, fearing they would get in trouble, disappeared with the dead dog, so it can’t be quarantined. Should your child get a rabies shot?

Background information:
Although now uncommon in dogs, rabies still occurs in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. These animals can then expose and infect unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets, etc.

To help prevent rabies, which is not usually treatable, in addition to immediately cleaning the wound, people should get human rabies immune globulin (RIG) and rabies vaccine.

The rabies vaccine is given as a series of four doses on the day of exposure to the animal with suspected rabies and then again on days 3, 7, and 14.

Although rare in the United States, at least 1 to 3 people do still die of rabies each year. The rabies vaccine series and rabies immune globulin are preventative, however, without them, rabies is almost always fatal once you develop symptoms. A few people have survived with a new treatment, the Milwaukee protocol, without getting rabies shots, but many more have failed the treatment and have died.

Would your child get a rabies shot? What if he had picked up a rabid bat?

3. Traveling to Romania.

You are traveling to the Romania to see family with your 9-month-old baby. Neither of you have had the measles vaccine. Should you both get vaccinated before making the trip?

Background information:

Over the past few years, over 100 people have died in measles outbreaks across Europe, with many in Romania.

Although the first MMR vaccine is routinely given when children are 12 months old, it is now recommended that infants get vaccinated as early as age six months if they will be traveling out of the country.

Since the endemic spread of measles was stopped in 2000, almost all cases are now linked to unvaccinated travelers, some of whom start very large outbreaks that are hard to contain.

Would you both get vaccinated before making the trip?

4. Tetanus shot.

Your unvaccinated teen gets a very deep puncture wound while doing yard work. A few hours later, your neighbor comes by to give you an update on his wife who has been in the hospital all week. She has been diagnosed with tetanus. She had gotten sick after going yard work in the same area and has been moved to the ICU. Do you get him a tetanus shot?

Background information:
Most children get vaccinated against tetanus when they receive the 4 dose primary DTaP series, the DTaP booster at age 4-6 years, and the Tdap booster at age 11-12 years.

Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus is not contagious. The spores of tetanus bacteria (Clostridium tetani) are instead found in the soil and in the intestines and feces of many animals, including dogs, cats, and horses, etc.

Although the tetanus spores are common in soil, they need low oxygen conditions to germinate. That’s why you aren’t at risk for tetanus every time your hands get dirty. A puncture wound creates the perfect conditions for tetanus though, especially a deep wound, as it will be hard to clean out the tiny tetanus spores, and there won’t be much oxygen at the inner parts of the wound.

These types of deep wounds that are associated with tetanus infections might including stepping on a nail, getting poked by a splinter or thorn, and animal bites, etc. Keep in mind that some of these things, like a cat bite, might put you at risk because you simply had dirt/tetanus spores on your skin, which get pushed deep into the wound when the cat bites you.

Symptoms of tetanus typically develop after about 8 days and might include classic lockjaw, neck stiffness, trouble swallowing, muscle spasms, and difficulty breathing. Even with treatment, tetanus is fatal in about 11% of people and recovery takes months.

Would you get your teen a tetanus shot?

5. Cocooning to protect baby from pertussis.

Both of your unvaccinated teens go to school with a personal belief vaccine exemption. You are due in a few months and are a little concerned about the new baby because there have been outbreaks of pertussis in the community, especially at their highschool. Should everyone in the family get a Tdap shot?

Background information:
Pertussis, or whooping cough, classically causes a cough that can last for weeks to months.

While often mild in teens and adults, pertussis can be life-threatening in newborns and infants. In fact, it is young children who often develop the classic high-pitched whooping sound as they try to breath after a long coughing fit.

In a recent outbreak of pertussis in California, 10 infants died. Almost all were less than 2 months old.

Since infants aren’t protected until they get at least three doses of a pertussis vaccine, usually at age 6 months, experts recommend a cocooning strategy to protect newborns and young infants from pertussis. With cocooning, all children, teens, and adults who will be around the baby are vaccinated against pertussis (and other vaccine-preventable diseases), so that they can’t catch pertussis and bring it home.

There is even evidence that a pregnancy dose of Tdap can help protect infants even more than waiting until after the baby is born to get a Tdap shot.

Would everyone in your family get a Tdap shot?

6. Nephew is getting chemotherapy.

Your nephew was just diagnosed with leukemia and is going to start chemotherapy. Your kids have never been vaccinated against chicken pox and haven’t had the disease either. Your brother asks that you get them vaccinated, since they are around their cousin very often and he doesn’t want to put him at risk.

Do you get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?

Background information:
Kids with cancer who are getting chemotherapy become very vulnerable to most vaccine-preventable diseases, whether it is measles, flu, or chicken pox.

According to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, “We want to create a ‘protective cocoon’ of immunized persons surrounding patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases so that they have less chance of being exposed to a potentially serious infection like influenza.”

Would your get your kids vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine?

7. Outbreak of meningococcemia at your kid’s college.

Your child has just gone off to college. There is an outbreak of meningococcemia in her dorm (8 cases already). It is the strain that is included in the Menactra and Menveo vaccines, although she has not been vaccinated. Do you encourage her to get vaccinated?

Background information:
Neisseria meningitidis is a bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis and sepsis (meningococcemia).

Depending on the type, it can occur either in teens and young adults (serogroups B, C, and Y) or infants (serogroup B).

Although not nearly as common as some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles or pertussis, it is one of the more deadly. Meningococcemia is fatal in up to 40% of cases and up to 20% of children and teens who survive a meningococcal infection might have hearing loss, loss of one or more limbs, or neurologic damage.

Meningococcal vaccines are available (Menactra and Menveo) and routinely given to older children and teens to help prevent meningococcal infections (serogroups A, C, Y and W-135). Other vaccines, Bexasero and Trumenba, protect against serogroup B and are recommended for high risk kids and anyone else who wants to decrease their risk of getting Men B disease.

Would you encourage her to get vaccinated against meningococcemia?

8. Cochlear implants.

Your preschooler has just received cochlear implants. Should he get the Prevnar and Pneumovax vaccines?

Background information:
Cochlear implants can put your child at increased risk for bacterial meningitis caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (pneumococcus).

Would he get vaccinated with Prevnar and Pneumovax, as he is no at high risk for pneumococcal disease?

9. Splenectomy

Your child is going to have his spleen removed to prevent complications of hereditary spherocytosis. Should he get the meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines first?

Background information:
Without a spleen, kids are at risk for many bacterial infections, including severe infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.

In addition to their routine vaccines, kids with asplenia might need Menveo or Menactra, Bexsero or Trumenba (Men B), and Pneumovax 23.

Would your child get these vaccines that are recommended for kids with asplenia?

10. Ebola

Ebola is returning, but this time an experimental vaccine is available.

Background information:
There were nearly 30,000 cases and just over 11,000 deaths during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

You are in an area that is seeing an increasing number of Ebola cases and there is still no treatment for this deadly disease. An experimental vaccine is being offered.

Do you get the vaccine?

How Anti-Vaccine Are You?

It’s easy to be anti-vaccine when you are hiding in the herd – seemingly protected by all of the vaccinated people around you.

Would you still delay or skip a vaccine in a high-risk situation?

More on The Anti-Vaccine Quiz

Would a Doctor Ever Say These Things About Vaccines?

More and more people are beginning to realize that it is getting harder and harder to easily identify satire, as folks say ever more outrageous things.

And it isn’t limited to politicians and celebrities.

#SaidNoDoctor

What unbelievable things have doctors said?

#SaidNoDoctor, except Dr. Jay Gordon, who made this statement about the HPV vaccine on the Ricki Lake Show.
#SaidNoDoctor, except Dr. Jay Gordon, who made this statement about the HPV vaccine on the Ricki Lake Show.

A pediatrician making a recommendation against a vaccine that can prevent cancer?!?

What about a pediatrician telling folks that measles isn’t deadly in the middle of a large measles outbreak? Yeah, that happened too…

Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn't deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe - another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn’t deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe – another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.

Not surprisingly, you can easily find “doctors” that hit on these and every other anti-vaccine talking point that put some parents on the fence about vaccines.

Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, doesn't seem to think that vaccines fit into a paleo lifestyle...
Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, doesn’t seem to think that vaccines fit into a paleo lifestyle…

Would you laugh at the notion of getting tetanus from a deep puncture wound?

Apparently some doctors would…

Dr. Blaylock misses that you aren't worried about tetanus organisms in the wound, but rather their spores, which you aren't going to easily clean out, not even if the wound bleeds a lot - common myths about tetanus.
Dr. Blaylock misses that you aren’t worried about tetanus bacteria in the wound, but rather their spores, which you aren’t going to easily kill or clean out, not even if the wound bleeds a lot – common myths about tetanus.

Do you know why most people don’t get tetanus or die of measles in the United States?

Because most people are vaccinated.

And they don’t listen to these kinds of doctors.

But wait, there’s more…

Dr. Jerry is a pediatrician who practices Translational Medicine and wrote the forward to Jenny McCarthy's autism book.
Dr. Jerry is a pediatrician who practices Translational Medicine and wrote the forward to Jenny McCarthy‘s autism book.

Of course, these aren’t the kinds of things that a doctor should say, at least not a doctor who understands vaccines, vaccine-preventable disease, and anything about science.

What to Know About Outrageous Vaccine Quotes from Doctors

Vaccines are safe and necessary and they work, but you wouldn’t know that after listening to what some of these doctors have to say.

More on Outrageous Vaccine Quotes from Doctors

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Rabies

Do kids still get rabies?

Tragically, most folks know that they do because of the story of the unvaccinated 6-year-old boy in Florida who died after being exposed to a rapid bat earlier this year.

Getting Exposed to Rabies

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease.

Unlike most other vaccine-preventable diseases though, unless you are at high risk for getting rabies, you don’t typically get the rabies vaccine unless you have already been exposed to rabies.

How does one get exposed to rabies?

Now that most people get their pets vaccinated against rabies, these exposures typically come from wild animals, including:

  • raccoons
  • skunks
  • foxes
  • coyotes
  • bats

While any mammal can be susceptible to rabies, small mammals, including squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares, rarely get rabies and aren’t usually thought to be a risk for humans.

Your other pets, including dogs, cats, and ferrets, are though. They should be vaccinated against rabies. As should other domestic animals, including cows, goats, sheep, and horses.

To avoid rabies, teach your kids to avoid wild animals.
To avoid rabies, teach your kids to avoid wild animals. Photo by Emilie Chen (CC BY-ND 2.0)

It is also important to teach your kids to avoid wild animals. While most kids won’t go out of their way to pet a coyote, they might try to feed a racoon or skunk, and they might pick up a bat they find on the ground.

Kids should also avoid cats and dogs that they don’t know. Your kids should not just walk up and pet unfamiliar dogs and cats.

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Rabies

Unfortunately, you won’t always know if an animal has rabies, although an animal acting strangely can be a tip off that they might have rabies.

Never touch a bat that you find on the ground during the day, as it might have rabies.
Never touch a bat that you find on the ground during the day, as it might have rabies. Photo by Radu Privantu (CC BY 2.0)

That bat your kids found on the ground could definitely have rabies, especially if they found it during the day. And the bat doesn’t even have to obviously bite your child. For example, if you find a sick or dead bat in your child’s room in the morning when he wakes up, you should consider that a possible exposure to rabies.

Many other exposures happen when kids are bitten by stray cats or dogs.

What do you do?

According to the CDC, if your child is bitten by any animal or has any possible exposure to rabies, you should:

  • immediately wash the wound well with soap and water, also using a povidone-iodine solution (Betadine Antiseptic Solution) to irrigate the wound if it is available
  • see a healthcare provider
  • call your local animal control for help in capturing the animal for observation or rabies testing

Animal control can also help in verifying a pet’s rabies vaccination status if your child was bitten by a neighborhood cat or dog.

“A healthy domestic dog, cat, or ferret that bites a person should be confined and observed for 10 days. Those that remain alive and healthy 10 days after a bite would not have been shedding rabies virus in their saliva and would not have been infectious at the time of the bite.”

CDC on Human Rabies Prevention — United States, 2008

In general, unless they already appear rabid, dogs, cats, and ferrets can be quarantined and observed for 10 days to see if they develop signs of rabies before your child begins post-exposure prophylaxis.

Other animals, including skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats should be considered rabid, with a quick start of post-exposure prophylaxis, unless the animal can be quickly tested (brain material) for rabies. And of course, you would be more considered about rabies if the animal was acting strangely, looked sick, or if it was an unprovoked attack.

What if you can’t find or capture the animal?

Depending on the circumstances, your pediatrician, with the help of your local or state health department, can determine if your child needs rabies post-exposure prophylaxis with rabies immune globulin and a 4 dose series of the rabies vaccine over 2 weeks.

“The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the 1990’s. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful.”

CDC on Rabies in the U.S.

About 40,000 to 50,000 people in the United States get rabies post-exposure prophylaxis each year. That works to keep the number of rabies cases and rabies deaths in people very low.

And it is not probably not at the top of your list of things to think about at a time like this, but animal bites can also be a risk for tetanus. Make sure your child doesn’t need a tetanus shot.

What to Know About Getting Exposed to Rabies

Keep your kids safe from rabies by vaccinating your pets and teaching them to avoid wild animals, but also know what to do if your child is exposed to rabies.

More on Getting Exposed to Rabies

Tetanus and Tetanus Shots

Tetanus is a vaccine-preventable disease that is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria.

Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Unlike most other infections though, tetanus isn’t contagious. Instead, spores of Clostridium tetani get into dirty wounds and then begin to grow into active bacteria.

The now “awake” Clostridium tetani bacteria then begin producing exotoxins that cause the symptoms of a tetanus infection.

In the pre-vaccine era, there were about 500 to 600 cases of tetanus in the US each year and about 165 deaths.

Fortunately, tetanus is rare now, as most folks are vaccinated, but we do see some cases in kids who are intentionally not vaccinated or in seniors who haven’t gotten a tetanus booster in a long while.

The unvaccinated child with the toe nail injury?

“A 4-year-old Caucasian boy presented with a one-week history of general malaise, mild fever, indolence and anorexia. He subsequently developed dysphagia, sialorrhoea, difficulties opening the mouth and eventually dehydration… Together with the lack of immunization and a toe nail infection, this lead to the suspicion of a generalized tetanus infection… The frequency and severity of paroxysmal muscle spasms increased progressively during his PICU stay, despite high doses of sedatives. Not before two weeks after admittance, extubation and careful weaning off sedatives was achieved.”

Generalized tetanus in a 4-year old boy presenting with dysphagia and trismus: a case report

He was unvaccinated “based on religious grounds” and had recently injured his toe, resulting “in a small local hematoma and loose toenail.” It also resulted in his getting tetanus and a 30 day stay in the hospital.

What Are the Symptoms of Tetanus?

Unvaccinated children can develop symptoms of tetanus two days to two months (average incubation period is two weeks) after getting a wound that is contaminated by tetanus spores.

“It was hideous. He was spasming every three minutes. He was biting his tongue and bleeding. His arms were spasming and he was arching his back and his whole face and jaw was completely locked.”

Linda Williams on her unvaccinated 7-year-old son’s bout of tetanus

The most characteristic symptoms are painful muscle spasms that gradually get worse over a week, including:

  • spasms of the muscles around their mouth, giving the typical “lockjaw” appearance of tetanus
  • spasms of the muscles around the throat, which can make it hard to swallow
  • spasms of the chest muscles, making it difficult to breath
  • spasms of the muscles in the neck, back, arms, legs, and abdomen

Other associated symptoms can include fever, headache, irritability, tachycardia (high heart rate), urinary retention (secondary to bladder muscle spasm), low blood pressure or high blood pressure.

How Do You Diagnose Tetanus?

Tetanus is usually diagnosed in someone with painful muscle spasms and history of a dirty wound.

It is important to keep in mind that your child is not only at risk for tetanus following the classic case of stepping on a rusty nail – a classic myth about tetanus.

Tetanus spores live in the soil and so almost any dirty wound can lead to tetanus infections. Although puncture wounds are the most common that lead to tetanus, scrapes, burns, snake bites, dog bites, and even spider bites can also cause tetanus if the wounds becomes contaminated with dirt or feces.

Testing for the Clostridium tetani in the original wound is sometimes possible, but is not necessary for a diagnosis of tetanus, since it is technically difficult to do.

Neonatal tetanus can occur in newborns if their mother isn’t immunized against tetanus and their umbilical cord stump gets contaminated.

How Do You Treat Tetanus?

The treatments for tetanus can include sedation and mechanical ventilation and:

  • human tetanus immunoglobulin (TIG) to try and neutralize the tetanus toxin
  • antibiotics, such as penicillin G, metronidazole, erythromycin, or tetracycline
  • muscle relaxants, such as diazepam, magnesium sulfate, midazolam, and baclofen
  • neuromuscular blocking agents, such as vecuronium and pancuronium, which cause paralysis

If you have ever read a story about a child who has needed treatment for tetanus, you will likely opt for a tetanus shot instead.

Do I Need a Tetanus Shot?

Like other vaccine-preventable diseases, keeping up-to-date on your child’s immunizations can help to prevent your child from ever getting tetanus.

One thing that complicates tetanus is that your child may still need a tetanus shot, even if they are fully vaccinated, if it has been five or more years since his last tetanus shot and he has:

  • a wound that is contaminated with dirt, feces, or saliva
  • a puncture wound
  • an avulsion wound, in which part of the wound is pulled away from the other part
  • a wound caused by crush injury, burn, or frostbite

So if your child had a tetanus shot at age four (the DTaP vaccine kids get before starting kindergarten), then he may need a tetanus shot if he gets a dirty wound before he gets a tetanus booster when he is 11 or 12 years old (the Tdap vaccine).

And yes, a tetanus shot will work in these situations, even if you have already been exposed to the tetanus spores. But no, letting a wound bleed a lot won’t flush out the spores. These are other myths about tetanus and tetanus shots that you might hear.

What to Know About Tetanus and Tetanus Shots

See your pediatrician as soon as possible if your child needs a tetanus shot after getting a dirty wound.

More About Tetanus and Tetanus Shots