Luckily, tetanus is not spread like a cold or flu, by personal contact, but must be introduced into your body, usually via a wound. Tetanus bacteria is found in many common places such as soil, dust and fecal material. Once the bacterial spores get introduced into a wound, the bacteria begin to grow, producing a toxin. This toxin affects muscles, more specifically, nerves that control muscles, causing muscle spasms and stiffness, especially in the jaw and neck. This is why tetanus is commonly called “lock jaw.”
Some types of wounds are more likely to encourage growth of the tetanus bacterial. Here are some common types of wounds:
- Dog bites
- Stepping on a nail
- A nail scraping or puncturing your scalp
- Any wound contaminated with fecal material
- Crushing injuries or those where there are dead tissue
Seek Medical Attention!
A tetanus infection is a medical emergency and almost always requires hospital care. This care includes intense wound care, symptom control using muscle relaxants or other drugs, and antibiotics. Generally, you will also receive the tetanus vaccine as well.
Since the 1950’s the number of tetanus infections has decreased dramatically due to the vaccine as well as an antitoxin. Today, there are very few cases of tetanus, and when it occurs, it is in unvaccinated people or those who fell behind on their boosters. Check with your doctor to review your vaccination status and see if the vaccine is right for you.Sources: www.cdc.gov/tetanus