Tetanus: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Prevention and Treatment
Table of Contents
Tetanus is a serious infectious disease caused by the spores of a bacterium which is present in the soil, ash, intestinal tract/faeces of animals and humans, skin surface, rusty tools and any other place in our environment.
It does not spread from one person to another but the body can get infected through open wounds in the skin especially the ones caused by contaminated objects such as Nails, needles, etc.
This disease remains a public health problem to mostly babies, pregnant women and others in developing countries and districts that have low immunization coverage but its impact is mostly felt on newborns and pregnant women who have not been given sufficient immunization with vaccines containing tetanus-toxoid.
Tetanus during pregnancy (maternal tetanus) occurs when pregnant women do not get sufficient immunization against it while tetanus within the first 28 days of life in newborn babies (Neonatal tetanus) occurs when nonsterile or contaminated instruments and materials are used to cut the umbilical cord or cover it.
According to the WHO, 787,000 estimated deaths of the newborn caused by tetanus infection were recorded in 1988 while in 2018, a total of 25,000 deaths of newborns which was as a result of Neonatal tetanus were also recorded.
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Also, adolescents and adult men who undergo circumcision are at a high risk of getting infected with this infection.
Keep reading to find out more about this disease and how to prevent it.
Causes of the Tetanus Infection
Tetanus is caused by the toxin (Tetanospasmin) found in the bacterium known as Clostridium Tetani and it frequently occurs in places where tetanus immunization is not widely known, skin cuts or deep tissue wounds or punctures in people and can also be seen in the umbilical stump of infants in underdeveloped countries.
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This bacterium survives dominantly in soil and animal faeces till it discovers a new habitat where it can live and grow of which an open wound is one of them because it awakens the cells of this bacterium which has shut down while in the soil.
When someone is infected with the Tetanus infection, there are some symptoms the person may notice in his or her body and these symptoms are listed below.
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Symptoms of Tetanus
If someone is exposed to tetanus, it will take 3 to 21 days to develop any symptoms while in the case of infants, it takes 3 to 14 days before symptoms are noticed and they include:
- Lockjaw (also called stiff jaw)
- Contraction of facial muscles
- Fast pulse
- Extreme Sweating
- Trouble swallowing
- Inability to breastfeed and excessive crying in infants
Some individuals may experience symptoms similar to other diseases so it is advised that you visit your medical doctor for proper diagnoses and treatment.
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How Can I Treat Tetanus Infection?
Here are the treatments for tetanus to prevent and reduce further health risks associated with it. They are:
- The intake of Drugs that have properties and are capable of controlling spasms
- Tetanus Vaccination
- Use of Antibiotics
- Intensive care for a wound
- Use an air ventilator (i.e. breathing machine) if you experience difficulty in breathing
- Other medicines as prescribed by your health care professional
Note: Tetanus is a medical emergency that requires immediate care from you, your health care personnel, and the hospital. Also, The best treatment to be given to you by your healthcare provider will be determined based on:
- Your age
- Your medical and health history
- The way you are feeling (i.e. how sick you are)
- How long the condition is expected to last
- Your ability to handle specific medications, therapies, and other medical treatment procedures
- Your preference
What are the Complications associated with Tetanus?
Below are the alarming health issues which may occur due to tetanus infection.
- Laboured breathing
- Aspiration Pneumonia
- Fractures due to muscle spasms
- Pulmonary embolism (blockage of the lungs and the blood vessels that convey blood to the lungs)
- Vocal Cord spasms or involuntary tightening of the vocal cords (Laryngospasm)
- High blood pressure
How can I Prevent or Protect Myself From Tetanus?
Here are the best ways to prevent getting infected with tetanus.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent tetanus, health care providers are doing their best to make the tetanus vaccine available to people both in rural and urban settlements.
Click here to find out more about the tetanus vaccination
2) Taking proper care of wounds (both minor and major)
Immediate and proper care for wounds is a great way of preventing this infection, apply first aid to wounds and make sure that they are always clean.
3) Go for regular medical checkups
Going for regular medical checkups and seeking the advice of your healthcare provider is also necessary.
4) Keep your hands clean and free from germs
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or apply an alcohol-based sanitiser to your hands if hand washing is not possible.
Tetanus is an infection that can have a fatal effect on its victim if prompt medical attention is not made available, it affects everyone, ranging from infants, to teens, adults and even pregnant women are not spare.
However, you can effectively prevent this tetanus by getting immunized and keeping your immunization updated, treating open wounds and seeking prompt medical advice is also essential.
The symptoms of tetanus will help you know the appropriate time to take action to reduce further casualties or complications (the first symptom most commonly noticed is spasms of the jaw muscles).