Why Get Vaccinations? Tetanus
In the office we see many parents refusing to vaccinate their kids. We understand that vaccinations have a certain stigma, but we want to protect the health of children, and as a result we spend a lot of the time explaining to parents the importance of vaccinations. One particular vaccination that is of utmost importance is a tetanus shot.
What is Tetanus and why is it so important?
Tetanus is a serious infection of central nervous system, caused by the potentially deadly bacteria Clostridium Tetani. This bacteria causes muscle stiffness and spasms; these spasms can be so violent that they can tear muscle and cause fractures of the spine.
Tetanus is caused by exposure to bacteria that lives in the soil, it can be found around the world, and can remain infectious for more then 40 years in the soil. They primary means of transmission are through a cut, scrape or burn that are subsequently exposed to the bacteria either by contact with the soil or dirty objects. The time between infection and the first sign of symptoms is typically 7 to 21 days.
What are the symptoms of Tetanus?
While tetanus can present itself in a myriad of ways there are certain symptoms that are more common then others. They include:
- Stiff jaw or neck muscles
- Involuntary smile, due to muscle spasm, not possible to relax the mouth.
- Pain in different parts of the body related to muscle spasm
- Difficulty breathing, swallowing or both.
- Uncontrolled urination or defecation.
- Back arched off the floor, or bed.
When should you see a doctor?
If you get a cut, scratch, stick, burn or other injury which can be hard to clean or there is foreign object inside (wood, grass).
Stepping on the nail is extremely high-risk trauma for getting Tetanus through dirty wound — but basically any trauma that occurs outdoors has the potential to develop tetanus.
Other common ways to develop tetanus include:
- Animal bites
- Sores on your feet that come into contact with the bacteria
Is there a test available for Tetanus?
No, there is no simple test to diagnose the disease; doctors will make this decision based on your symptoms and history.
How dangerous Tetanus?
Tetanus is incredibly dangerous. Once symptoms take full effect a muscle spasm of the diaphragm muscles and neck muscles can stop your breathing, which can lead to death or to irreversible brain damage. In fact it is so dangerous that without treatment one out of four infected people die.
What is the treatment for Tetanus?
If you believe that you have sustained an injury there are a few basic treatments that can greatly reduce your odds of contracting tetanus.
- Cleaning cuts or scratches to remove dirty tissue that could have tetanus bacteria on it.
- Giving medicine to fight the infection (antibiotics)
- Medicine to reverse the poisoning (Tetanus immune globulin)
- Receiving a Tetanus vaccine booster
- Taking medications to reduce muscle spasms, breathing problems, and pain.
- Wash cuts with soap and water and use ointment on them.
- See a doctor if you can’t get all the dirt out or if you can’t see all the way into the wound like in case of deep wounds from a nail or other metal object
How can you prevent Tetanus?
Most people in the USA are protected from this bacterium by vaccination, which given the success rate and severity of the disease greatly reduces the risk of ever contracting tetanus. For those that have not been vaccinated, speak with a doctor to evaluate your next steps; if you have been vaccinated previously make sure you keep up your tetanus booster shots to maintain your body’s ability to ward of tetanus — booster shots should take place at 10 year intervals.
At times doctors will recommend an additional booster if the wound looks very dirty, and you haven’t had one in the last 5 years. If you have no history of vaccinations in the past or you are not sure if you have ever had a tetanus shot, then you may need tetanus immune globulin in addition to the booster shot.
The best defense against contracting tetanus is to be vaccinated at birth, and to keep up booster shots at regular intervals. No child, or adult should ever have to worry about suffering from such a preventable disease.
If you have any concerns or questions regarding tetanus we would be more than happy to help you. Please give us a call at (425) 453-6838 and we will help you with any questions you may have.
(Image credit: HighYa.com)