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Tetanus

How its causes and prevention

Tetanus is a rare bacterial condition that can be fatal if left untreated, and is caused by bacteria getting into a wound.

Typical symptoms of Tetanus

Tetanus symptoms usually take around ten days to develop following the point of infection, but can appear sooner or later.

The main symptoms are lockjaw (when the jaw muscles become stiff, making it difficult to open your mouth), muscle spasms (which can affect breathing and swallowing), fever of 38C (100.4F) or higher, tachycardia (faster than normal heart beat), and sweating. Tetanus in rare cases can be life-threatening.

Affected Locations:
Worldwide

Causes

Tetanus usually results from contamination of a flesh wound in an unimmunised person. Tetanus is not an infectious disease, meaning that you cannot catch it from someone else. The bacteria that causes tetanus is called Clostridium tetani, and it is frequently found in manure and soil.

If this bacteria enters the bloodstream through a wound, the will multiply and release toxins which affect the body’s nerves. A deep wound covered in dirt is most likely to lead to tetanus, but the bacteria can also enter the body via cuts and scrapes, body piercings or tattoos, burns, eye injuries, animal bites, or intravenous injection of drugs.

What to do next

Make an appointment to see one of our specialists if you are concerned about tetanus, would like to know more about vaccination, or have recently suffered an injury. We are here to help and can work out a treatment plan for you.

FAQ

I am worried my wound is infected. What can the doctor do?

If you haven’t already had the tetanus vaccine, the doctor may advise that you do so, even after possible infection. They will certainly recommend an injection of tetanus immunoglobulin, which kill the bacteria that cause the infection.

How is tetanus treated?

If you do develop tetanus symptoms, you will likely be admitted to an Intensive Care Unit, so that you can be monitored, given breathing support and an IV of nutrients. Antibiotics will also be prescribed.

Do I need to have the tetanus vaccine before I travel?

A doctor can give you the best advice regarding the vaccination, but as tetanus is prevalent in certain parts of the world, it is usually a good idea to be vaccinated before you travel, especially if you know you will be going to an area with limited medical facilities, and have had the vaccine more than 10 years ago.

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Tetanus Vaccine

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Please note that Walk In Clinic is a private medical centre and not an NHS service.