Hence, tetanus is referred to as lockjaw because your jaw muscles can stiffen to the point that breathing and swallowing become difficult. And death by suffocation is a serious possibility.
Tetanus is contracted through a cut or wound that becomes contaminated with Clostridium tetani. Spores of this bacteria are virtually everywhere, routinely gathered in soil, dust and manure. Thus, having a tetanus shot and “kept current” booster is crucial for those that hanging around farm animal territory.
Tetanus is not contagious. Clostridium tetani bacteria typically enters your body through a puncture type (nail, knife) wound. Because this bacteria cannot grow in the presence of oxygen, deep wounds tend to be a lower in oxygen environment. An ideal habitat for tetanus toxic spores to germinate.
However, C. tetani can even get in via minor wounds, such as a pinprick or scratch. Some folks have become infected by means of:
- animal bites
- ear infections
- crush wounds
- dental infections
- body piercing, tattooing
- illegal drug use injections
Even tetanus from a splinter is possible.
Beyond lockjaw stiffness, other symptoms indicating that the tetanus causing poison has gained entry include:
- neck stiffness
- rapid heart rate
- breathing difficulty
- muscular irritability
- difficulty swallowing
- elevated blood pressure
- abdominal muscle rigidity
- back, chest muscle spasms
Symptoms of tetanus may appear within a couple of days to several weeks, usually noticed 7 days after bacteria wound entry.
Tetanus is easily prevented by immunization shot and vaccine booster. Most cases of tetanus occur in those who have never been vaccinated or haven’t had a tetanus booster shot within the previous 10 years.
The tetanus vaccine is an inactivated toxin called a toxoid. You cannot get tetanus from this vaccine.
But, because the shot is not a live vaccine, your immunity will tend to decline in time. This is why a booster is recommended every 10 years.
Also, if ever you experience a deep or dirty wound, and the status of your booster vaccine is beyond 5 years, get with your health care professional right away for a “lockjaw prevention” boost.
The tetanus toxoid shot vaccine is normally given to children as part of the DTaP vaccine. This vaccination protects against:
The DTaP childhood vaccine is given to children in a series of shots at ages:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 15 – 18 months
- 4 – 6 years
Treatment for tetanus is available, but it can be fatal even with treatment. Clostridium tetani produced spores are resistant to heat and many chemical agents, creating a very difficult to kill treatment issue.
Your best health defense against tetanus is preventing it in the first place. A tetanus shot, vaccine booster and vigilant wound care are your healthiest schemes.