What Do You Know About Tetanus?

tetanus syringe

Facts About Tetanus You Never Knew

Tetanus is a toxic nervous system disease that is usually fatal and is caused by toxins produced by a bacterium known as clostridium tetani. This bacterium can be found anywhere in the world. Clostridium tetani can lay dormant for years until it is activated and begins to develop and reproduce.

Tetanus enters the human body through untreated open wounds. These wounds get contaminated and infected by tetanus when they are not given proper treatments. Such wounds include puncture wounds caused by nails, burn wounds, drug injection sites, and any form of skin breakage. Tetanus also poses a risk to both the mother and child through the uterus and umbilical cord cut.

The toxin produced by this bacterium is what causes this hazardous, harmful, and fatal tetanus. Another name for tetanus is “lockjaw.” It usually causes a person’s jaw muscles to lock, making it hard for the person to swallow or open the mouth.

How Tetanus Causes Harm to the Body

Being a nervous system disease, the toxin produced by this bacterium affects the interaction between the nervous system and the muscle the nervous system stimulates, especially at the neuromuscular junction. It disrupts the chemical signal from the nerve to the muscle, which makes the muscle tighten up in a spasm or contraction.


Tetanus is caused by a bacterium known as clostridium tetani, which can be found in dirt and dust and secrets toxins that are hazardous to health. A person gets infected when the bacteria finds its way into the bloodstream and secrets the harmful toxin. This harmful toxin is known as “tetanospasmin.” Tetanospasmin blocks the nerve’s chemical signal from the spinal cord to the muscles, which in turn leads to muscle contraction or spasm.

Tetanus infection is associated with the following;

  • Dead tissues injuries
  • Puncture wounds from nails, tattoos, or injection
  • Dirt and dust contaminated wounds.
  • Animal bites
  • Dental infections
  • Chronic open sores and infections
  • Tetanus cannot be conveyed from person to person. It is predominant in damp and densely populated places.


Symptoms appear after 5-10 days of infection, though this data varies. However, the farther the infected site is from the central nervous system, the longer the incubation period, and the closer the site of the infected site, the shorter the incubation period. The most affected areas are usually the jaw, abdomen, neck, back, and chest. These symptoms include;

  • Muscle contraction and spasm
  • Difficulty talking and swallowing
  • Chest muscle stiffness
  • Arched spine
  • Bloody stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Touch sensitivity
  • Sore throat
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Retention of urine in the bladder
  • Restlessness
  • Jerking
  • Chills
  • fever


  • Laryngospasm; an uncontrollable vocal cord
  • Multiple fractures;
  • Artery blockage
  • Pneumonia, a chronic lung infection
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Skin sores
  • Muscle tear
  • Tetanic seizures; here, the infection spreads across to different parts of the brain.
  • Dangerously low blood pressure
  • Pulmonary embolism: A vein conveying blood through the heart and lungs can get blocked, leading to difficulty in breathing.
  • Less oxygen, but more carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Sometimes, death, as a result of respiratory failure.

Period of Exposure to Clostridium Tetani

could be a snake biteThe initial symptoms of infection begin at about 2-10 days after contamination. However, its full manifestation is usually within 14 days. The speed of infection depends solely on the area or site of infection. The nearer the site of infection is to the central nervous system, the faster the manifestation of symptoms and vice versa. Also, when the wound is left untreated over a very long period of time, it gets contaminated, tetanus incubation begins, and in no time, symptoms begin to manifest.


  • An open wound that is large enough or susceptible to tetanus infection should not be treated at home. Professional medical attention is required to handle it. The following kinds of wounds are prone to tetanus infection and should be treated by professional medical practitioners immediately;
  • A burn or wound that covers a large part of the skin and requires surgery that is delayed for 6 hours or more is prone to tetanus.
  • Any form of wound, no matter how small that comes in contact with dirt, soil, or manure.
  • A severe wound that involves the damage of some tissues
  • Severe compound fractures that are exposed to infections
  • Wounds in systemic sepsis patients
  • Wounds of this magnitude require urgent tetanus shots and treatment to prevent infection.
  • The following are tetanus treatment methods.
  • Medications
  • Anticonvulsants can be prescribed to relax stiff muscles, reduce muscle spasms and anxiety and also work as sedatives for general body relaxation.
  • Muscle relaxants can also be prescribed to slow down signals from the brain to the spinal cord, thereby reducing muscle tension.
  • Surgery

Some big tetanus prone wounds might be suggested by medical professionals to be treated through surgical removal in order to get rid of infected and damaged tissues.

  • Nutrition

Due to increased muscle activity, a tetanus patient is expected to consume foods that are high in calories.

  • Ventilator

While treating some tetanus cases, ventilators are required to support the patient’s breathing if their breathing and vocal cords have been affected in the process.

  • Supportive Care

Tetanus patients need help with a lot of things. Due to their inability to open their mouths or swallow, they are usually fed through a nasogastric tube, a feeding tube that is inserted through the nose, past through the throat, and finally into the stomach.

  • Vaccination

Vaccinating both children and adults would help reduce the effects of tetanus even if the individual is infected. Vaccines are given alongside tetanus treatment to ward off such infection in the future.

  • Cleaning of the wound to explore the degree of infection and prevent more infection.


  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent tetanus. This vaccine is given to children in some parts of the world during immunization. However, the vaccination does not provide life-long immunity against tetanus, it wears off with time, and this is why it is really important to renew the vaccine and take shots on schedule. It is advisable to give children of ages 11 and 12 TDap vaccine shots, while adults can get the Td vaccine every 10 years for renewal.
  • Proper cleaning of wounds, no matter how small, can also help reduce tetanus infection tendencies.
  • Preventing open wounds from coming in contact with dirt, soil, or manure is another measure that would help keep the bacterium away from you.
  • Go to your health care provider to discuss your tendencies and vulnerability to tetanus.
  • Speak to your doctor if you think your time of vaccination is not up to date.

Side Effects of Tetanus Shots

The common side effects of tetanus shots include;

  • Pain from the Injection Site

This happens when there is a mild reaction on a person’s body from the injection site. It usually fades away after few days of its appearance.

  • Redness and Swelling of the Injection Site

A slight reaction from the injection site can lead to redness and swelling of the site. The study claims that 1 out of 4 people will experience redness and swelling on the injection spot after the vaccine.

  • Body aches
  • Fever

Though mild, one of the side effects of tetanus vaccine shot is fever. This is usually a mild response to the vaccine shot. Medications would help reduce symptoms over time.

  • Headacheheadache
  • Weakness and Fatigue

Receiving tetanus shots can incur weakness and fatigue. There is really nothing to be pricked about when you feel this way, as it is just a response to the vaccine shots.  Throughout the tiredness, take enough rest and allow the course to run.

  • Nausea and Vomiting

Some tetanus vaccine shots can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, which would include nausea and diarrhea.

  • Sore Joint

Tetanus vaccine shots may lead to sore joints and probably migrate to chills all over the body.

In Conclusion,

Tetanus also known as lockjaw is a harmful nervous system disease that is caused by a hazardous bacterium which disrupts the signal sent from the brain to the spinal cord thereby leading to multiple muscle seizure, contractions and spasm. Tetanus is really not contagious, cannot be transmitted from person to person, but it can spread throughout the brain and body if ignored. It gets into the bloodstream through untreated open wounds and its incubation period and symptom manifestation period lasts between 2 and 14 days. Various treatment methods and preventive measures have been mapped out to tackle tetanus and its hazards.