by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Tetanus is an infection of the nervous system. It can be deadly when it is not treated.
It is caused by type of bacteria that is found in soil, dust, or manure. It enters your body through a break in the skin. This makes a toxin that causes tetanus.
It is most common in places that have rich, moist climates. Other things that may raise your risk are:
Symptoms may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. An exam will be done. You may be asked whether your vaccination is up to date. This may be enough to make the diagnosis.
Care is needed right away. Some people may need help with breathing. Other choices are:
These medicines may be given:
A tetanus vaccine may be given to those who have not had a recent one.
Surgery may be needed to open and clean any skin wounds.
The best way to lower the chances of this illness is to get the vaccination:
Other things that can lower the risk are:
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Tetanus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tetanus . Updated May 14, 2018. Accessed October 21, 2019.
Tetanus vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Updated February 28, 2019. Accessed October 21, 2019.
Thwaites CL, Beeching NJ, et al. Maternal and neonatal tetanus. Lancet. 2015 Jan 24;385(9965):362-370.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 10/21/2019
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