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Immunization

Tetanus immune globulin (TIG)

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​​​​​​​​​​​Get protected, get immunized.

  • Immune globulins are passive immunization agents. This means they give quick, short-term protection.
  • For long-term protection, you need a immunized.​

What is tetanus immune globulin (TIG)?

TIG is made from blood and contains antibodies to tetanus. It provides fast protection, but the protection is not long lasting.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that causes uncontrolled movements (spasms) in the muscles of the jaw and other muscles of the body.

Tetanus can cause:

  • “lock jaw” where the mouth stays closed and cannot open widely
  • trouble breathing, seizures, and death

Tetanus infection is rare because there has been a vaccine since the 1940s. Most people have been immunized against it.

Who is most at risk?

People who are not immunized are at highest risk. If they get tetanus, at least 1 out of 10 will die.

Older adults, people who were born outside of Canada, and people who don’t have a record of being completely immunized for tetanus are more likely to have no protection for tetanus.

How does it spread?

Tetanus bacteria are common in dirt, manure (animal poop used as fertilizer), and human feces (poop). They can get into the body through a cut or an animal bite.

Who should get TIG?

Tetanus can happen when tetanus bacteria gets into a wound, such as a cut, puncture, burn, or frostbite. You may get TIG when you haven’t had a primary series (at least 3 doses) of a tetanus vaccine and:

  • You get a wound that is likely to have tetanus bacteria. For example, there is soil or feces in the wound.
  • You get a wound that has dead tissue.

If you have a weak immune system, you may need TIG after a wound even if your tetanus vaccines are up to date.

If you’ve had a primary series of a tetanus vaccine, you usually don’t need TIG. But you may need a booster dose of a tetanus vaccine after a wound.

If you have tetanus disease, you may get TIG as a treatment.

How many doses do I need?

You need 1 dose of TIG as soon as possible after a wound that is at risk for tetanus.

You'll also need a dose of tetanus vaccine.

How well does TIG work?

TIG provides fast protection and helps prevent tetanus disease.

Is TIG safe?

TIG is one of the safest blood products available. Canadian Blood Services carefully screens donors and tests all blood. Blood is not used if the donor has risk factors or tests positive for an infectious disease. TIG is treated with heat and chemicals to kill germs. The risk of getting an infection from TIG is very small.

Where can I get TIG?

If you have a wound that’s at risk for tetanus, call Health Link at 811. If you need TIG, you’ll get it at your local public health office or hospital. It’s best to get it within 24 hours of a wound.

Tell your healthcare provider if you don’t have a complete primary series (at least 3 doses) of tetanus vaccine.

Are there side effects from TIG?

There can be side effects from TIG, but they tend to be mild and go away in a few days. Side effects may include:

  • feeling sore or feeling stiff where you had the needle
  • fever

It's important to stay at the hospital or public health office for 15 minutes after you have TIG. Some people may have a rare but serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis happens, you will get medicine to treat the symptoms.

It's rare to have a serious side effect. Call Health Link at 811 to report any serious or unusual side effects.

How can I manage side effects?

  • To help with soreness and swelling, put a cool, wet cloth over the area where you had the needle.
  • There is medicine to help with a fever or pain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure what medicine or dose to take. Follow the directions on the package.
  • Some people with health problems such as a weak immune system must call their doctor if they get a fever. If you have been told to do this, call your doctor even if you think the fever is from TIG.

Who should not get TIG?

Talk to your healthcare provider before getting TIG if you:

  • have an allergy to any part of the immune globulin
  • had a severe (serious) or unusual side effect after this immune globulin or one like it
  • have low or no immunoglobulin A in your blood (IgA deficiency)

Check with your doctor or public health nurse before you get TIG.

You can still get TIG if you have a mild illness such as a cold or fever.

What vaccines protect against tetanus?

For long-term protection, you need to be immunized with a vaccine that protects against tetanus:

  • DTaP-IPV-Hib-HB protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), and hepatitis B. Babies can get this vaccine.
  • DTaP-IPV-Hib protects against all of the same diseases as DTaP-IPV-Hib-HB except hepatitis B. Children born before March 1, 2018, who are under age 7 years can get this vaccine as part of their primary series. Children can also get this vaccine as a booster dose when they’re 18 months old.
  • dTap-IPV protects against all of the same diseases as DTaP-IPV-Hib except Hib. Children who are age 4 years can get this vaccine as a booster dose.
  • dT​ap​ protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. You can get it as a booster dose in Grade 9 and then every 10 years when you’re an adult. You should also get this vaccine every time you’re pregnant. You may get this vaccine if you are not up to date with your diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis immunizations.

Can TIG affect any vaccines I’ve had?

TIG can interfere with live vaccines. You need to wait at least 3 months after getting TIG before you can get a live vaccine.

If you had a live vaccine less than 14 days before having TIG, ask a public health nurse if you need the live vaccine again.

I have a fear of needles. How can I prepare for my immunization?

Many adults and children are afraid of needles. You can do many things before, during, and after immunization to be more comfortable. Visit Commitment to Comfort for tips to make immunization a better experience.

More information about immunization

Current as of: December 15, 2022

Author: Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services