Spring is around the corner. Time to go out and explore the trails, do repairs around the house or yard work. It’s also the time you can get a cut, scrape, animal bite or puncture wound easily. That’s when you are at risk for getting tetanus.
Tetanus is a serious infection that causes muscle spasms. It is sometimes called ‘lockjaw’ because muscle spasms can clench the jaw shut. It is caused by bacteria that live in the soil. They can get into your body through a break in the skin. High risk wounds are penetrating wounds, if there is a coinfection with other bacteria, dead wound tissue and poor vascularization or if there is a foreign object in the wound. It takes approximately 8 days to develop symptoms after you have been exposed but it ranges between 3 and 21 days. Other symptoms can include tight painful muscles that won’t relax, trouble breathing or swallowing, fever, sweating, restlessness and fast or irregular heartbeat. If tetanus is suspected you should see a doctor. Between 10 and 15% of the people diagnosed with tetanus will die from it.
Tetanus can be prevented by washing cuts and scrapes with soap and water and use of an antibiotic ointment. If you cannot get all the dirt out or cannot see all the way into the wound go see a doctor. Do not inject illegal drugs, or at least use clean needles. Another way to prevent tetanus is by getting a tetanus vaccine. This vaccine is part of the routine immunization schedule in Alberta and will be administered at different ages, the last time in grade 9. Adults should get a tetanus booster every 10 years or if you have a high risk wound if it is more than 5 years you had your last booster. This is available free of charge in your local clinic Care in the Creek Medical Centre in Bragg Creek. Come see us if you do not know when your last booster was. We can check it for you and immunize you if needed. We have evening and weekend appointments available. Contact us at 403 949 2457.