We live in a world of many different health concerns, and there is always something new to consider. But it’s important not to lose sight of established and well-understood health risks, such as tetanus. With all of the new health information floating around out there, it can be easy to lose sight of the basics.
So what is Tetanus, and why should your family take tetanus vaccination seriously?
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can have serious effects on the patient’s nervous system. Because Tetanus will often lead to muscle contractions in the jaw and neck area, it is commonly referred to as “lockjaw.” Tetanus can also cause breathing problems, and is therefore life threatening in certain cases.
Common symptoms of tetanus include muscle spasms (as mentioned), trouble swallowing, abdominal stiffness or cramps, and stiffness in the neck. It’s also possible to experience fever, elevated heart rate and/or blood pressure, and excessive perspiration as a result of Tetanus infection.
The next obvious question is: How do people get tetanus? What are the common causes?
First, it’s important to grasp that a very specific type of bacteria is the cause of tetanus. This bacteria is called Clostridium tetani, and it is commonly found in animal feces, dust, and soil or dirt. These bacteria usually enter the body through a flesh wound, where they begin to produce a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin. This is what causes the stiffness and spasms mentioned earlier. Once a tetanus infection has occurred, it is not contagious.
Common causes of tetanus infection include puncture wounds (such as stepping on a rusty nail), compound fractures, burns, animal or insect bites, dental infections, and foot ulcers that become infected. There are many possible causes of tetanus, but these are among the most common.
In terms of treating tetanus, there is unfortunately no cure. Antitoxins and antibiotics are commonly (but not always) to fight the infection. Correctly caring for the wound itself is also important. Tetanus is also not diagnosed by specific tests; rather, it is based on a physical exam, medical history, symptoms, and so forth.
How to prevent tetanus
Overwhelmingly, the best way to prevent tetanus infection is to adhere to the standard vaccination schedule for tetanus. These immunizations are highly effective. Ordinarily, a vaccine, known as DTaP is given beginning in infancy. This protects against tetanus, diphtheria (a type respiratory infection), and pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough). These vaccinations are usually administered to children at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and later between the ages of 4 and 6. Tdap is given between ages of 11 and 12 and then is recommended every 10 years once an adult.
The nice thing about tetanus immunizations is that you shouldn’t have to wait in line or make an appointment in order to receive the highest quality vaccinations. Your local urgent care center may be able to offer this service without no waiting and no appointments necessary. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure that any past immunizations are documented, and that you adhere to the recommended schedule of tetanus immunizations and boosters for maximum protection. Tetanus is not something to be taken lightly, but fortunately, immunizations are an extremely effective way to ensure that your kids remain tetanus-free.