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What Is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a fatal disease of the central nervous system caused by a poison made by the tetanus bacterium that enters the body through an open wound. Tetanus bacteria live in soil and manure; they can also be found in the human intestine and other places.


What Causes Tetanus?

Tetanus is caused by the toxin of the bacterium clostridium tetani; it is not spread from person to person. Tetanus occurs in peop​le who have had a skin or deep tissue wound or puncture.


What Are The Symptoms Of Tetanus?

The most common symptoms of tetanus are:

  • Stiff jaw also called lockjaw
  •  Stiff abdominal and back muscles
  •  Contraction of the facial muscles
  •  Fast pulse
  •  Fever
  •  Sweating
  •  Painful muscle spasms especially near the wound area; if these affect the throat or chest wall, breathing may be stopped
  •  Trouble swallowing

*The symptoms of tetanus may look like other medical conditions. Always consult your physicians for a diagnosis.


How Is Tetanus Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on a complete history and physical exam.


How Is Tetanus Treated?

Your physician will determine your specific treatment for tetanus based on:

  • How old you are
  •  Your overall health and medical history
  •  How sick you are
  •  How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  •  How long the condition is expected to last
  •  Your opinion or preference

Treatment for tetanus, or to reduce the risk after an injury may include:

  • Medicines to control spasms
  •  Through cleaning of the wound
  •  A course of tetanus antitoxin injections
  •  Use of a ventilator, or breathing machine, if you have trouble breathing on your own
  •  Antibiotics
  •  Other medicines to control pain and other symptoms such as fast heartbeat


What Are The Complications Of Tetanus?

  • Vocal cord spasms
  •  Broken bones due to severe muscle spasms
  •  Breathing problems
  •  Pneumonia
  •  High blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythms
  •  Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)


Can Tetanus Be Prevented?

A DTaP shot is a combination vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Adults should get a Td booster every 10 years, but it can be given before the 10-year mark. Always ask your physician for advice.