Tetanus or ‘lockjaw’ as it is sometimes called is a very serious illness.
You can get tetanus when the tetanus bacteria gets into a wound or cut. The bacteria makes a poison (toxin) in your body that attacks the nervous system.
This poison makes your muscles go into spasms, which is very painful. The first symptom is usually spasm of the jaw muscles (lockjaw), followed by muscle spasms of the neck, chest, abdomen, arms and legs. Many people who get tetanus will die from it.
Tetanus bacteria lives in dirt, dust and soil and it enters your body through breaks in the skin. Most people think about getting tetanus when they step on a rusty nail. You can also get tetanus just as easily if the bacteria gets into your body through a small scrape or cut. For example, a cut on your finger, a splinter, animal bite or a burn. People who use dirty needles are at risk for tetanus too.
People of all ages are at risk for tetanus infection. The most effective way to prevent tetanus is immunization. Manitoba Health, Active Living and Seniors offers tetanus immunization as part of the routine childhood immunization schedule. Tetanus boosters are recommended every 10 years.
In addition to keeping your immunization up to date, you should wear protective gloves, clothing and footwear while gardening or renovating and be careful when using tools that can cause injury or puncture the skin. If injured, immediately clean wounds with warm water and soap.
Tetanus vaccines are safe and effective and are available for people of all ages.
Contact your primary health care provider, public health nurse or pharmacist if you have questions or want to check your immunization status. For more information about Tetanus check out this video.