Tetanus, commonly known as lockjaw, is uncommon in the United States. The greatest danger of contacting the disease is for those who travel to less developed parts of the world, and also for those who are not immunized. some workers are also more likely to be infected. The disease is caused by bacteria which enters the body through scratches, bites, piercing wounds, and cuts.
Tetanus is called lockjaw because the victim experiences stiffness in the jaw and neck which make swallowing difficult, if not impossible. Other symptoms include spasms throughout the body with possible fever, rapid heart beat and elevated blood pressure.
Although most young children are vaccinated against tetanus, older children and adults may need a booster. The bacteria causing tetanus is found in the feces of animals as well as in soil. Potentially infected cuts, deep wounds as from nails or large splinters, and animal bites, are all things that require an immediate tetanus booster. Anyone who has not received a booster within the last ten years should consider being re-vaccinated as a precaution.
The spasms which accompany a tetanus infection can interfere with breathing to such as extent that respiratory failure, cardiac arrest and death may follow. At least one, out of every five people who contract tetanus, will die. Many of these are the very young, the frail, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems. Others who die are those that were never immunized or those that fail to get a booster shot if potential infection is suspected. Do not wait for symptoms to appear. See your doctor if you have any concerns and he/she will decide on the best course of action.
There is no cure for tetanus. Tetanus is a disease of the that affects the nervous system, and once the toxins have bonded with the nerve tissues, antitoxins are useless. Treatment, therefore, will consist of cleaning the wound, and administering medications to ease the symptoms. Severe tetanus may require the use of a ventilator
To protect yourself against tetanus, be sure that you and your family are up to date with all your vaccinations. In case of possible infection, or if you have disturbing symptoms, see you family physician immediately.
There are some risks associated with many vaccines, but they are much less likely to be problematic than are the diseases against which the vaccines protect. Your physician will advise you about possible reactions.