DESCRIPTIONTetanus is an infection in a wound or injury that causes severe muscle spasms. Tetanus is not contagious from person to person. The injured tissue and muscles throughout the body, especially the jaw, neck, back, and abdomen are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery to remove infected tissue.
Hospitalization in a quiet, dark room. Your child's treatment may include the use of breathing tubes, a respirator, and 24-hour nursing care.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSMuscle pain, irritability, and frequent, severe spasms.
Severe swallowing difficulty.
Difficulty using chest muscles to breathe.
Bacteria (clostridium tetani) that are present almost everywhere -- especially in soil, manure, or dust. They can enter your child's body through a puncture caused by a nail or other object. Toxins produced by the bacteria travel to nerves that control muscle contraction, producing muscle spasms and seizures.
RISK FACTORSDiabetes mellitus.
Lack of up-to-date tetanus immunizations.
Warm, humid weather.
Crowded or unsanitary living conditions, especially for newborn infants born to non-immunized mothers.
Use of street drugs administered with unclean needles and syringes.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEObtain tetanus immunizations for your child. These consist of 3 immunization shots, with a booster shot every 10 years. An additional booster shot may be necessary for your child at the time of injury. Private doctors or local health departments may provide immunizations at little or no cost.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Respiratory paralysis and death.
The death rate from tetanus is 50%. With early diagnosis and treatment, however, full recovery is likely. Allow 4 weeks for your child's recovery.
HOME CAREProvide your child with reassurance and psychological support. Despite the seriousness of tetanus, patients are usually conscious.
MEDICATIONAntitoxins to neutralize the nerve toxin.
Muscle relaxants to control spasms.
Sedatives to relieve anxiety.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your doctor may prescribe:
During hospitalization, bed rest is necessary for your child with as little disturbance as possible. During recovery, the child's activities should be resumed gradually.
DIET & FLUIDS
During hospitalization, intravenous fluids will be necessary for the child because of swallowing difficulty.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of tetanus or you observe them in someone else. Call immediately. This is an emergency!
Your child or someone in your family needs basic or booster tetanus immunizations.
Your child has a puncture wound or injury that breaks the skin, and there has not been an immunization or booster in 5 years.