What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a potentially fatal infection caused by spores of the bacteria Clostridium tetani.

How is tetanus caused?

These spores can enter the body through wounds, especially deep wounds, as well as animal bites. Once in the body, the spores turn into a bacteria that produces a powerful toxin called tetanospamin, which debilitiates the nerves that control your muscles.

What are the symptoms of tetanus?

The toxin eventually can cause muscle stiffness or even violent spasms. Tetanus is often called "lockjaw," because the most common site for initial stiffness and spasms is the chewing muscles. Common symptoms of tetanus also include:

  • stiffness of neck muscles
  • difficulty swallowing
  • stiffness of abdominal muscles
  • fever
  • sweating
  • elevated blood pressure
  • rapid heart rate

How is tetanus cured?

Tetanus is incurable. Treatment of a tetanus infection centers on a managing complications until the effects of the toxin subside. If left untreated, tetanus can cause broken bones from the severity of spasms, even death, as the spasms may restrict or stop breathing, leading to cardiac arrest.

How is tetanus prevented?

The Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine is the most effective way to prevent your child from developing tetanus. The typical vaccine schedule goes as such:

  • 1st dose - 2 months old
  • 2nd dose - 4 months old
  • 3rd dose - 6 months old
  • 4th dose - 15-18 months old
  • 5th dose - 4-6 years old

After the initial five doses, you should get a DTaP booster very 10 years. If, however, you've experienced one of the injuries that can cause tetanus mentioned above, you should ensure that you've had a booster within the past five years. If not, seek treatment as soon as possible after incurring the injury.

If your child is in need of the DTaP vaccine, or any other childhood vaccine scheduling, contact Hendersonville Pedatrics today!

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