What Is Tetanus?
Tetanus, also called the lockjaw, is life-threatening infection caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria. Although the bacteria are especially common in soil and manure of farms, they can be found almost anywhere. They live in dirt of suburban gardens and in dirty waters of floods. They also contaminate dust in the cities.
Tetanus bacteria usually enter body through a dirty puncture wound, cut, scrape or some other break in skin. Once inside skin, they multiply and produce the toxin, or poison, that affects body’s nerves. This toxin causes severe muscle spasms, cramps and the seizures. Spasms in jaw muscles produce lockjaw. Spasms also occur in the muscles of throat, chest, abdomen and extremities. If you don’t receive the proper treatment, toxin’s effect on the respiratory muscles can interfere with breathing. If this happens, then you may die of suffocation.
A tetanus infection may develop after almost any type of the skin injury, major or minor. This includes the cuts, punctures, crush injuries, burns and the animal bites. In rare cases, a tetanus infection also can occur after the surgery, an ear infection, a dental infection or the abortion. Among the drug users, tetanus infections have followed the heroin injections, especially if heroin was mixed with quinine. Tetanus also can develop after the body piercing, tattooing, the insect sting or even a tiny splinter.
Symptoms Of Tetanus
On average, the symptoms of tetanus begin seven to eight days after the tetanus bacteria enter body. These symptoms may include:
The Spasms in the jaw muscles (lockjaw)
The Stiff muscles in the neck, shoulder and back
The Difficulty swallowing
The Prolonged contraction of the facial muscles, which may produce what looks like a sneer or grimace
The An arched back resulting from contraction of the back muscles
The Muscle spasms and muscle rigidity in the chest, abdomen and extremities
The Fever and profuse sweating
The High blood pressure
The Rapid or irregular heartbeat
The Difficulty breathing
The Fractured bones and ruptured muscles caused by severe muscle spasms
Diagnosis Of Tetanus
There is no laboratory test specific for tetanus. A doctor will diagnose the tetanus based on symptoms, a history of a recent cut or the puncture wound, and immunization history.
Expected Duration of tetanus
People who have the tetanus must be treated in hospital. Once these spasms subside, the recovery takes several months.
Prevention Of Tetanus
Immunization can prevent all cases of tetanus.
Babies are immunized against the tetanus through a series of four vaccinations. This primary series is given in form of DTaP shots.
The usual schedule for tetanus shots is as follows:
First shot: at age 2 months
Second shot: at age 4 months
Third shot: at age 6 months
Fourth shot: at age 15 to 18 months
Once primary series of the tetanus immunizations is complete, a child usually receives two tetanus booster shots. One is given between ages of 4 and 6 years, just before child starts school. second is given between ages of 11 and 12 years. Booster shots enhance child’s level of tetanus immunity.
After age of 12, a tetanus booster shot usually is recommended every 10 years. Under special circumstances, the doctor may give booster dose sooner.
The tetanus booster is usually given if you had a severe cut or a puncture wound and it has been more than the 5 years since you had last tetanus shot. This is because some people show decrease in tetanus immunity within 5 to 10 years after last tetanus booster.
In adults and the children older than 7 years who have never been immunized against tetanus, doctors use the primary series of Td shots. Once primary Td series is finished, booster shots are usually given every 10 years. Because of recent increase in pertussis cases, at least one of shots should be a DTaP during adulthood.
Adults and children should receive routine tetanus immunizations. However, certain groups of people must be especially careful to keep the tetanus shots up to date. These people have jobs or hobbies that expose them to the dirt, dust, manure or dirty water.
Doctors review the patient’s tetanus immunizations before the surgery and before the childbirth. All women of the childbearing age should be immunized against the tetanus. Newborns rely on their mother’s tetanus immunity to protect them from the tetanus until their own DTaP shots begin. An infant who is not properly protected against the tetanus can develop tetanus infection even from having his or her umbilical cord cut.
Any wound on body should be cleaned well as soon as possible, especially if it is contaminated with dirt, to reduce risk of infection with bacteria that cause tetanus.
Treatment Of Tetanus
If you seek the medical care for a wound, your doctor will ask you when you had last tetanus shot. If your tetanus immunization is not up-to-date, doctor will give you tetanus booster. However, this booster shot will not produce the immunity right away, so you may receive the tetanus immune globulin as well.
If you have full-blown tetanus, you will be treated in hospital. There you will receive the tetanus immune globulin to neutralize tetanus toxin. Your muscle spasms will be treated with the muscle relaxants, and you also may be sedated. If necessary, you will be placed on ventilator to help you breathe. If you have an obvious wound infection, you will probably receive antibiotics also. Once your condition begins to gradually improve, you will begin the schedule of the shots to restore your tetanus immunity in your body, because tetanus infection does not make you immune to the disease.
Prognosis Of Tetanus
Most patients with the tetanus survive and return to previous function. Older people and those who have rapid progression from time of the infection to severe symptoms have higher risk of death
Myths About Tetanus and Tetanus Shots
There is a lot of misinformation out there about the tetanus that can scare you away from getting the tetanus shot or make you think that you don’t really need one.
You can only get tetanus from a rusty nail- Not True
Tetanus is not contagious. Instead, you can get the tetanus after being exposed to the tetanus spores in dust, soil, and feces, which then grow and make powerful neurotoxin. Tetanus spores can even be found in mouth of many animals.
Tetanus is not just about the nails.
You can get the tetanus after cat or dog bite, a burn, frostbite, tractor falling on your leg, or falling into a rose bush, etc. Almost anything that can cause on-superficial wound can cause tetanus, especially if wound is contaminated with dirt, feces, or saliva.
Tetanus shot won’t help after you have already been cut, stabbed, or bitten.-Not True
The reason we give shot is because tetanus spores take time to germinate.
We are not worried about the tetanus bacteria being on rusty nail, cat teeth, rose bush, or on your dirty hands through which a clean knife went through.
Tetanus spores on those things and everywhere else, because they are in dirt and dust. And then, after spores they germinate inside wound, C. tetani bacteria have to start producing the exotoxin that acts as neurotoxin, which causes symptoms of tetanus.
If puncture wound bleeds a lot, then you don’t need to get a tetanus shot.-Not True
Many puncture wounds do not bleed a lot, but those that do mean that there are still at risk for tetanus.
You don’t need to get the tetanus shot if you have a clean, minor wound and
you have completed the primary tetanus series, and
your most recent the dose of tetanus vaccine was within past 10 years
For most other wounds, including the dirty wounds, animal bites, and the puncture wounds, etc., you likely don’t need the tetanus shot if you have completed the primary tetanus series, and your most recent dose of tetanus vaccine was within past 5 years.
Tetanus is a mild disease. (False)
Tetanus, which people commonly think of as “lockjaw” is hardly the mild disease. Thus unvaccinated child got the tetanus after a toe nail injury.
Even with the modern intensive care, generalized tetanus is associated with the death rates of 10% to 20%.”
And tetanus will always be problem if you aren’t vaccinated.
Since tetanus isn’t contagious and tetanus spores are in dirt and dust around us, you can’t rely on folks around you to get vaccinated and “hide in herd” for this vaccine preventable disease.
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