What you need to Know about Tetanus
Tetanus is very dangerous bacterial disease that can result in the loss of limbs if not treated. It is usually prevented by vaccination, but still, there are a number of cases recorded every year of people being infected. Bellaire ER shares the important things you need to know about Tetanus like the cause, symptoms, and treatment of the same in this post.
What is Tetanus?
Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a disease caused by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani. The bacteria excrete toxins that affect one’s nervous system and the brain. This lethal bacteria can be found in manure, soil and other agents in the environment. The bacteria usually finds its way into someone’s body through open wounds. When they get into the body, the bacteria deposit their spores into the wound causing an infection. Given the severity of the Tetanus, the cases are usually treated as medical emergencies that require aggressive treatment.
Tetanus symptoms usually emerge up to 10 days after the initial infection has occurred. However, this is not necessarily the same for all people as in some the symptoms can come as early as 4 days after the infection while in others as late as several months after the infection. Normally, the incubation period depends on the location of the injury. An infection site that is far from the central nervous system usually results in a longer incubation period while one that is close to the central nervous system is characterized by a shorter incubation period.
The infected persons usually experience muscles stiffness and spasms. The stiffness usually starts with the jaw muscles hence the lockjaw name. The spasms spread to the throat and neck leading to swallowing difficulties. The stiffness of the neck muscles and the chest muscles also lead to difficulties in breathing. For some patients, their limb and abdominal muscles will also be affected.
For children, their backbone may arch backward due to the back muscles being affected.
Some of the other common symptoms that cut across all infected individuals include diarrhea, bloody stools, sweating, sore throat, increased heartbeat rate, sensitivity to touch, fever and a mild headache.
While it may not be possible to prevent being exposed to injuries since accidents can occur unexpectedly at any time, Tetanus can be prevented through vaccination. Most people who get Tetanus infection are those who have not been vaccinated or who have not gotten a booster shot for immunity within the last 10 years.
Tetanus vaccination is usually administered to children in their DTaP shot. The DTaP comprises of 5 shots administered progressively after birth for several months and years after birth. The kids usually get the shots when they attain 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and between 4 to 6 years of age. They then get a booster shot between 11 and 18 years of age. After that, one needs to get a booster shot after every 10 years.
The first step in the treatment process is cleaning the wound thoroughly to prevent any infection. Serious wounds that are likely to develop tetanus should be treated immediately by a medical professional. Doctors may administer penicillin for treatment. Alternatively, they may administer metronidazole. These two treatment agents help prevent the Tetanus bacteria from multiplying further and producing their infectious toxins. For patients who have an allergic reaction towards metronidazole or penicillin, they can be treated with tetracycline instead.
The muscle spasms and stiffness can be treated using anticonvulsants line diazepam which prevents spasms in addition to reducing anxiety and acting as a sedative agent, muscle relaxants that suppress nerve signals resulting in less muscle tension, and neuromuscular agents that block signals to muscles thus controlling spasms.
If the tetanus wound is pretty large, then the doctor may opt to remove the damaged tissue surgically through debridement. Debridement is the removal of dead and/or contaminated tissue or foreign material from a wound.
Part of tetanus treatment involves a change in one’s nutrition. A person with Tetanus infection needs to have a very high intake of calories every day. This is due to the increased activity of their muscles.
One of the symptoms of Tetanus is stiffness of the neck and chest muscles resulting in the infected patient experiencing difficulties in breathing. As such, a patient may need to have ventilator support to aid their breathing.
Complications due to lack of treatment
If a patient does not receive treatment immediately, they risk developing a life-threatening complication and, possibly, a life-long scar. Some of the complications include:
• Bone fractures due to the muscles convulsions and spasms.
• Aspiration pneumonia in case one inhales the contents of the stomach that rise up the throat.
• Acute renal failure due to the destruction of skeletal muscle that leads to the leaking of a muscle protein.
• Pulmonary embolism which is a condition that emerges when a blood vessel is blocked. It usually leads to breathing difficulties
• Tetanic seizures when the infection spreads to the brain
Tetanus is a very dangerous infection that ought to be treated as an emergency. It is also important to be responsible enough to get yourself and your children, if you have any, the booster shots for maximum protection.