Tetanus Risk and First Aid after a Fire

Tetanus Risk and First Aid after a Fire

Tetanus Risk after a Fire

After a wildfire, there is risk of injury as cleanup efforts begin. Tetanus is a concern for persons with both open and closed wounds, and a tetanus vaccination is recommended for all residents returning to the burn area who have not had a documented dose within the past ten years. Prompt first aid management for wounds and prevention of infection is another important consideration.

If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil, or saliva, a health care professional should determine if a tetanus booster is necessary, based on individual records.

Tetanus Prevention

  • Patients without a clear history of receiving at least three tetanus vaccinations and who have any wound should get the tetanus immune globulin (TIG) as well as the tetanus vaccination.
  • Tetanus in the United States is most commonly reported in people older than 40 because they are less likely to be adequately vaccinated.
  • Women over 55 years of age are especially susceptible because they likely do not have protective levels of tetanus antibody.
  • Diabetics are at increased risk for tetanus. Reported tetanus is about three times more common in diabetics, and fatalities are about four times more common.
  • Non-acute wounds account for about 1 in 6 cases of reported tetanus; 1 in 12 reported cases had no reported injury or lesion.

Wound Protocol

Vaccination HistoryClean, Minor WoundsAll Other Wounds
Unknown or less than 3 dosesTd or TdapTd or Tdap PLUS tetanus immune globulin (TIG)
3 or more doses and less than 5 years since last dose
3 or more doses and 6-10 years since last doseTd or Tdap
3 or more doses and more than 10 years since last doseTd or TdapTd or Tdap

Wound Care

Seek medical attention as soon as possible if:

  • There is a foreign object embedded in the wound.
  • The wound is at special risk of infection (such as a dog bite or a puncture by a dirty object).
  • A previous wound shows signs of becoming infected (e.g. increased pain and soreness, swelling, redness, draining, or you develop a fever).

Care for Minor Wounds

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water.
  • Avoid touching the wound with your fingers while treating it.
  • Remove obstructive jewelry and clothing from the injured area.
  • Apply direct pressure to any bleeding wound to control bleeding.
  • Clean the wound after bleeding has stopped:
    • Examine wounds for dirt and foreign objects.
    • Gently flood the wound with clean water.
    • Gently clean around the wound with soap and clean water.
    • Pat the wound dry and apply an adhesive bandage or dry clean cloth.
  • Provide pain relievers, if possible.

Other Considerations

  • Wounds in contact with soil and sand can become infected.
  • Puncture wounds can carry bits of clothing and dirt into wounds and result in infection.
  • Crush injuries are more likely to become infected than wounds from cuts.

Contact Us

Environmental Health Division

Main: 303-441-1564
Submit a question


3450 Broadway
Map & Directions
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Boulder County Health logo