Tetanus is caused by a bacterium Clostridium tetani that causes painful muscle spasms and eventually leads to death. However, tetanus vaccine has made tetanus a preventable disease.
At What Age Do You Get A Tetanus Shot?
Tetanus shots are given in series instead of just one, in the form of a combined vaccine DPT (diphtheria pertussis and tetanus). This vaccine not only prevents you from tetanus but also against whooping cough and diphtheria.
The vaccination for tetanus is started at the age of 6 weeks (DTwP1), which is followed by 10 weeks (DTwP2) and 14 weeks (DTwP3). The booster doses of tetanus are then given at the age of 16-18 months (DTwP B1/DTaP B1) and then at the age of 4-6 years (DTwP B2/DTaP B2). Td (tetanus diphtheria) vaccine is given to all preteens and adults at the age of 11 or 12 years. Also one dose of TDaP vaccine is recommended for adults who have never received it.
Since tetanus spreads through a wound, any deep punctured wound should be immediately washed and cleansed with water and soap thoroughly. Get rid of any dirt or soil from the wound so that any chance of bacterial infection is prevented along with tetanus.
Although primary vaccination is recommended, but if you have not had a tetanus booster in the last 10 years, it is recommended to get one immediately, especially if the wound inflicted is clean and deep. If the wound is dirty or tetanus prone the doctor might advise you a tetanus booster if you have not received one in the last 5 years.
In case you have never received primary immunization against tetanus as a child, the doctor will give you your first vaccine dose of a special immunoglobulin with high activity against tetanus at the time of your wound care. Some redness and soreness might be experienced by some people at the injection site that goes away after sometime. The dose is then repeated at a period of four weeks and then again at six months to prevent tetanus completely.
Other ways through which you can develop tetanus is by use of contaminated needles and wounds with dead tissue (due to burns and frostbite). They should be taken care of with aseptic measures and use of contaminated needles should be avoided.
Symptoms of Tetanus
They result due to toxin produced by the Clostridium bacteria. Symptoms usually appear a week after infection; however, they may also take up to three weeks to appear or sometimes even longer. The most common symptom of tetanus is a stiff jaw, which becomes locked hence the name lockjaw is given to it.
The other symptoms include headache, muscle stiffness that starts in the jaw and then proceeds to the neck and the arms, legs or abdomen. There is also trouble in swallowing food particles along with restlessness and irritability. The affected person may also suffer from fever with sweating, palpitations and increased blood pressure.
The muscle spasms in the face may cause a permanent strange looking grin or smile to appear on the face. If tetanus is not treated it might lead to respiratory paralysis and ultimately death of the patient due to suffocation.
You cannot get tetanus from another person. It spreads via a cut or wound. Bacteria causing the tetanus are mostly found in soil, dust and manure. The tetanus bacteria can infect a person even through a tiny scratch but you are more likely to be infected with it from deep punctured wounds caused by nails and knives. This bacterium then travels through blood to the central nervous system and infects it by releasing toxins. If a person has been already vaccinated against tetanus then antibodies are formed immediately and further infection is prevented. Even if the person has not been previously immunized a tetanus shot within 24 hours is helpful in preventing tetanus.
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