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Tetanus is an infectious disease caused by contamination of wounds from bacteria. The bacteria "Clostridium tetani" is the cause of tetanus which lives in the soil in a form called a spore. It affects the nervous system and causes painful, uncontrolled muscle spasms. Infection occurs when spores produce a very powerful poison that affects the muscles.

The bacteria live in soil, saliva, dust and manure. The bacteria enter in the body through a wound, deep cut. The infection causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to "locking" of the jaw, which makes it impossible to open your mouth or swallow. If this happens, a person could die of suffocation.

Alternative name for tetanus is lockjaw.

The disease has 4 possible types:

  • Cephalic tetanus: It primarily affects muscles of the face only any other muscle is not involved.
  • Generalized tetanus: It can affect all skeletal muscles. It is the most common and most severe form of tetanus.
  • Local tetanus: It manifests with muscle spasms at or near the wound that has been infected with the bacteria.
  • Neonatal tetanus:  It is similar to generalized tetanus except that it affects a baby that is less than 1 month old.

Causes of Tetanus

  • Clostridium tetani is the bacteria responsible for the disease.
  • Tetanus can only occur when the spores germinate and turn into the active form.
  • Tetanus typically follows an acute injury that results in a break in the skin.
  • Bacteria enter in body thorough puncture wounds, caused by nails, splinters, or insect bites.
  • Burns, any break in the skin, and IV drug sites are also potential entryways for the bacteria.

Signs & Symptoms of Tetanus
The symptoms can occur anywhere from days to months after exposure to the bacteria. The time between the contamination of a wound and the first symptoms is usually less than 2 weeks but can range from 2 days to months. Tetanus often begins with

  • Difficulty in eating or drinking
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Locking of Jaws
  • Muscle contraction in the jaw
  • Pain in neck, shoulders, or back
  • Pain in the muscles
  • Pain in the muscles of the abdomen, upper arms, and thighs
  • Stiffness

Diagnosis of Tetanus
Tetanus is diagnosed by its symptoms. The symptoms of tetanus are somewhat distinctive and a doctor can usually diagnose the disease simply by observing the patient. Knowing about the patient history of having tetanus vaccination in the past would also helps a doctor to make their diagnosis pretty sure. If necessary then a doctor may prescribe a blood test to identify the tetanus bacteria.

Side effects of the tetanus vaccine

  • Soreness
  • Redness and;
  • Swelling at the site of the injection

The symptoms disappear with a few days.

Preventions of Tetanus
Tetanus can easily be prevented through vaccination. Usually DPT is given by a doctor which is a combination of vaccines that protect against Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis.  The vaccine is given in five stages at different ages

  • First at the age of 2 months
  • Second at the age of 4 months
  • Third at the age of 6 months
  • Fourth at the age of 15 to 18 months
  • Fifth at the age of 4 to 6 years
  • Adults should receive a booster shot against tetanus every ten years.
  • Wound and scratches should be cleaned thoroughly to prevent tetanus.
  • A wound should be covered with a bandage to avoid contamination
  • Consult with a doctor if wounds that don't heal or taking more time to heal

The most important way to prevent tetanus is through complete immunization and proper wound care.

Treatments of Tetanus
Doctors play an important role in preventing tetanus. A child who does develop tetanus will be treated in a hospital, usually in the intensive care unit (ICU).

All open wounds are at risk to get tetanus. Wounds from objects outdoors or crush injuries are at higher risk.

  • Any wound that results in a break in the skin should be cleaned with mild soap and running water.
  • Always use a clean and dry cloth to stop or minimize bleeding.
  • Applying of direct pressure to the site of bleeding would help to minimize the blood loss.
  • Wash your hand properly if you are applying bandage on patient's wound
  • Avoid wounds from direct contact from flies and other insects that brings germs
  • Always seek medical help if you are unable to heal a wound with home treatments

When to seek Medical Advice
Always seek for Medical Advice:

  • If your child develops symptoms of tetanus like lockjaw or muscle
  • If the kids have not been immunized against tetanus
  • If it's been more than 10 years since someone in your family has had a tetanus booster

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