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If you have reviewed many of the topics on Survive Outdoors,
you would find that with many injuries we do recommend a tetanus
update. We feel it is our responsibility to give you information
on what Tetanus is and why it is so important to have the
immunization. Clostridium tetani is a bacteria that can survive
for many years in various areas on dirt, nails, wood and a
variety of substances that we become involved in when camping,
hunting, fishing, and any outdoor activity. Clostridium tetani,
which can cause severe illness and death, has been referred
to as lockjaw. This is due to individuals that do get this
organism and have not had tetanus updates. Severe muscle spasms
can occur throughout the body and especially the jaw area,
hence the term lockjaw. Apparently, there are less than 40
cases of tetanus reported every year in the United States.
Usually this involves individuals that are greater than 55
or 60 years old, mostly because they have not updated their
vaccination of tetanus. It is seen much more frequently in
rural areas, and poverty areas where there are poor immunization
programs. The infection usually follows a local injury such
as a puncture wound, scratch, or laceration. The wound is
present in only about 20% of the patients. The reason for
this is that the incubation period of tetanus is anywhere
from one day to several months, with an average of about eight
days. Many times the wound will heal, but the bacteria has
been instilled into the wound area. Higher risk is deep wounds
as opposed to superficial wounds.
As previously stated, the incubation period from the time
of the wound to the time of the symptoms is anywhere from
a day to several months, with an average of about eight to
nine days. Initially, individuals are very tired, irritable,
have headaches, neck stiffness, and difficulty swallowing.
Then comes the muscle rigidity and spasm, which you will have
sustained contractions of muscles, specifically facial and
jaw muscles, hence the term “lock jaw”. The overall
mortality rate is around 30%. In individuals over 60 years
of age, it jumps to 50%.
Treatment of Clostridium tetani is beyond the scope of this
website, and we are going to focus more on prevention.
Currently the reccomendations for non-tetanus prone wounds,
lacerations, punctures and small abrasions if the individual
has not had a tetanus update in the past ten years, they should
get an update. If it is a tetanus prone wound, such as a very
deep wound from working in a horse barn, for example, a deep
puncture wound from a nail. These individuals would get a
tetanus update plus a tetanus immune globulin, especially
if their tetanus has been greater than five years since their
Tetanus Shot Side Effects
This examiner has only seen maybe two or three local side
effects related to a tetanus injection from the thousands
and thousands of tetanus injections this author has seen in
the last 20-25 years. Local reactions are redness at the injection
site, tenderness mostly the next day of the arm area. Rarely
will the redness be larger than a silver dollar at the site.
That is the extent of the tetanus shot side effects. There
is more fear over the injections and shots themselves in general.
The benefits of having tetanus shot far outweigh the risks
of any local side effects. Survive Outdoors strongly recommends
tetanus updates for any individual who is heavily involved
in the outdoors, as well as all individuals.