Jalan Kartika Plaza No.90, Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia

What are the first signs of Tetanus?

Our clinic is located in the heart of the Kuta area and is within the reach of the tourist areas of Seminyak and Nusa Dua.

2018-12-23
Tropical Diseases

What are the first signs of Tetanus?

by Dhani Anggara, MD

TETANUS

 

Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a serious infection caused by Clostridium tetani. This bacterium produces a toxin that affects the brain and nervous system, leading to stiffness in the muscles. The infection can cause severe muscle spasms, serious breathing difficulties, and can ultimately be fatal. Although tetanus treatment exists, it is not uniformly effective. The best way to protect against tetanus is to take the vaccine.

 

Common Ways Tetanus Gets Into Your Body

Stepping on nails or other sharp objects is one way people are exposed to the bacteria that cause tetanus. These bacteria are in the environment and get into the body through breaks in the skin. The spores can get into the body through broken skin, usually through injuries from contaminated objects. Certain breaks in the skin are more likely to get infected with tetanus bacteria. These include:

  • Wounds contaminated with dirt, poop (feces), or spit (saliva)
  • Wounds caused by an object puncturing the skin (puncture wounds), like a nail or needle
  • Burns
  • Crush injuries
  • Injuries with dead tissue

 

Time from Exposure to Illness

The incubation period — time from exposure to illness — is usually between 3 and 21 days (average 10 days), although it may range from one day to several months, depending on the kind of wound. Most cases occur within 14 days. In general, shorter incubation periods are seen with more heavily contaminated wounds, more serious disease, and a worse outcome (prognosis).

 

Symptoms

Symptoms of tetanus include:

  • Jaw cramping (lockjaw)
  • Sudden, involuntary muscle tightening (muscle spasms) — often in the stomach
  • Painful muscle stiffness all over the body
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Jerking or staring (seizures)
  • Headache
  • Fever and sweating
  • Changes in blood pressure and a fast heart rate

 

Complications

Serious health problems that can happen because of tetanus include:

  • Uncontrolled/involuntary tightening of the vocal cords (laryngospasm)
  • Broken bones (fractures)
  • Infections gotten by a patient during a hospital visit (hospital-acquired infections)
  • Blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by a blood clot that has travelled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream (pulmonary embolism)
  • Pneumonia, a lung infection, that develops by breathing in foreign materials (aspiration pneumonia)
  • Breathing difficulty, possibly leading to death (1 to 2 in 10 cases are fatal)

 

Prevention

  • Vaccination

Being up to date with your tetanus vaccine is the best tool to prevent tetanus. Protection from vaccines, as well as a prior infection, do not last a lifetime. This means that if you had tetanus or were vaccinated before, you still need to get vaccinated regularly to keep a high level of protection against this serious disease. Tetanus vaccines are recommended for people of all ages, with booster shots throughout life.

  • Good Wound Care

Immediate and good wound care can also help prevent infection.

  • Don’t delay first aid of even minor, non-infected wounds like blisters, scrapes, or any break in the skin.
  • Often wash your hand with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if washing is not possible.
  • Consult your doctor if you have concerns and need further advice.

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