Tetanus is a type of deadly infectious disease affecting the nervous system and is caused by bacteria. The bacteria get into the body through cuts, wounds and insect bite spots. Vaccination is available for preventing tetanus. It can cause painful muscle contractions and the infection can affect your normal breathing. Tetanus is prevalent in under developed countries and each year many cases of death occur in spite of awareness.
How a Bacterium Gets Into Your Body?
Tetanus causing bacteria can enter the human body through cuts or wounds. If there are any deep wounds or dead tissue in the body, it is ideal for entry of bacteria. The sites of skin where there is insect bites and splinters are favorable spots. Even the area of small burns is enough for the bacterium to cause infection. The spot where a shot of injection is given can also give room for infectious bacteria.
As such tetanus causing bacteria is not harmful, but the potent toxin released during the growth of bacteria can be very serious and fatal. Tetanus infection is called as “lockjaw” in common terms, since it affects the neck and jaw muscles by causing contraction.
How Does Toxin Produced Affects Your Nervous System?
As the bacteria grow rapidly inside your body it releases harmful toxin called as ‘tetanospasmin”. This would seriously impair your nervous system and motor neurons. Such effect of toxins on the motor neurons is the major cause for muscle spasms.
Tetanus infection can cause contraction of muscle at the point where it attacks your body. It affects the communication between the muscle and nerves by directly acting on neuromuscular junction. Subsequently a signal is sent from the affected nerve to the muscle causing contraction of muscle. This is called muscle spasms. This infectious disease can affect the fetus on the womb of the mother also. Unfortunately tetanus infection is causing death among newborn babies worldwide.
Incubation Period :
Incubation period can be described as the time between the entry of bacterium and the onset of first symptom. It might take as less as 2 days for the bacteria to infect or sometimes it may take even 2 months for producing potentially serious toxins in the body.
Tetanus Symptoms :
Initial symptoms can start anywhere from 2 days to 2 months after the bacteria has entered your body. On average, it may take a week for causing symptoms. Symptoms of tetanus infection include difficulty in swallowing due to stiffness of neck muscles and jaw region, muscle spasms in the jaw and stiffness of abdominal muscles. In severe cases it can cause painful spasms in the body for minutes together. Even a small touch of the body or loud noise is enough for triggering such spasms. It may cause fever, intense sweating and increased blood pressure.
Clostridium tetani is the name of bacterium that causes tetanus. It lives in dampened soil and on animal feces. It can enter your body when you accidentally come in contact with soil or dust.
Risk Factors :
People who have not taken vaccine against tetanus are likely to get infected. Those with inadequate immunization and taking improper booster shots are more prone to develop tetanus than others. A person having penetrating wound for long term or with an injured tissue (without taking antibiotic) is at risk. Presence of foreign body in your body such as splinter puts you at increased risk. Often, tetanus bacterium would enter your body if you have puncture wounds like body piercings, insect bites, burns, compound fractures, ear infections, surgical wounds (not treated properly) and through infected foot ulcers.
Tetanus can affect your nerve endings making you impossible to move particular part of the body. New nerve fiber need to grow in that area for complete recovery, which can take several months. Tetanus can cause complications of breaking the bone causing fracture, disability to move muscles and in severe cases it can cause death, interfering with normal breathing.
Your doctor will investigate your immunization history and look for symptoms of muscle spasms and stiffness.
Tetanus Treatment :
- Tetanus cannot be cured and treatment can be given only for improving the symptoms.
- If you have any wound, take precautions that dirt and foreign particles do not settle on it.
- Based on your symptoms, your doctor may give antitoxin drugs to neutralize the toxin produced by bacteria.
- Powerful antibiotics are prescribed to destroy bacteria.
- Strong doses of sedatives are given to the affected individual to prevent muscle spasms.
- Supportive medical care and close supervision is needed for the person to prevent any complication of breathing.
- You may need active immunization since having tetanus infection once does not guarantee that you will not get future infections.
Home Remedies :
Tetanus infection can occur only if you have open wounds in your body. So always take medication precaution for deep wounds. It is better to take a booster shot of tetanus vaccine. Firstly control the bleeding on the wounds and keep it clean and dirt-free. You can apply an antibiotic cream on the wound to make healing easy. Visit the nearest clinic to change the dressing daily if it gets wet or dirty.
Tips for Prevention :
You can totally prevent tetanus by taking immunization shots. You need to take a shot of tetanus booster for every 10 years. Protect your child from tetanus and other infectious diseases by giving him/her periodic vaccination right from his birth. Adolescents and elderly people can take a booster shot of Td for getting protection against diphtheria and tetanus. Consult your doctor for getting Tdap vaccine regularly.