Tetanus which is also known by the name of lockjaw is a potentially serious medical condition that affects a person’s central nervous system. It can; however, be prevented with tetanus vaccine immunization. It is caused by Clostridium tetani a bacterium that is normally present in the soil. It releases a toxin that binds itself to nerves around the wound and travels inside the nerves to the brain and spinal cord. It affects the functioning of the motor nerves that send motor signals/commands from the brain to the muscles.
How Often Do You Need A Tetanus Jab?
The tetanus shots are given in the form of a combined vaccine DPT for prevention of diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) along with tetanus. They are given in series instead of just one dose.
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. A booster dose is recommended after every 10 years.
How To Prevent Tetanus?
Tetanus is usually acquired through deep skin cuts or wounds. Any wound especially if it breaks the skin surface and is deep and has the possibility of being contaminated with soil, saliva, animal or human feces should be thoroughly cleansed with soap and water and any remnants should be properly washed away.
If a person has not been immunized then a doctor must be called immediately. Active immunization is usually recommended to prevent tetanus. However, a person can be given high activity immunoglobulin as wound care if one has never been immunized before followed by repeat dose after four weeks and then again after 6 months.
The doctor must be informed regarding up-to-date of the immunization so that appropriate measures can be taken and tetanus can be fully prevented. It is also recommended to get a tetanus shot if it has been more than 10 years as a booster dose of tetanus, especially if the wound is punctured and clean. In case of an affected wound your doctor might advise you to get a booster dose if you have not received one in the last 5 years.
If a puncture or other deep wounds lead to symptoms of lock jaw or muscle stiffness/spasms you should get medical care right away. Post exposure prophylaxis is helpful in preventing tetanus.
Tetanus immunization should be done at an early age with a series of four DPT vaccines before 2 years of age, another dose at 4-6 years of age and a booster at 11-12 years of age. After this a booster of Td should be given after every ten years through adulthood.
The Tdap vaccine is also recommended to all pregnant women during the second trimester regardless of whether they have received the vaccine before or not. Neonatal tetanus should also be avoided by delivering the baby in sanitary conditions and with proper umbilical cord care.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tetanus?
The symptoms of tetanus usually occur after a week of acquiring the infection. However, they may also take longer to appear up to three weeks or even more in some cases. The most common symptom of tetanus is stiff jaw, which becomes locked over time; hence the name lockjaw (trismus) is given to it.
The other symptoms of tetanus include headache, restlessness, irritability, trouble in swallowing food and liquids, palpitations, high blood pressure, muscle stiffness that starts in the jaw and then proceeds to the neck, arms , legs and the abdomen. The muscle spasms caused by the tetanus gives the appearance of a steady smile or grin on the face. If not treated on time then tetanus can lead to respiratory paralysis and ultimately the patient dies of suffocation due to inability to breathe.
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- Side Effects of Tetanus Shot
- Can Rust Give You Tetanus?
- How Soon Should You Get A Tetanus Shot After An Injury?
- Can You Get Tetanus From A Small Scratch?
- How Long Does Tetanus Take To Kill you?
- What Are The First Signs Of Tetanus?