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Tetanus - Why You Need To Get Your Child Vaccinated Against It?

Written and reviewed by
Fellowship In Neonatology, MRCPCH(UK), Diploma In Child Health (DCH), MBBS
Pediatrician, Delhi  •  33 years experience
Tetanus - Why You Need To Get Your Child Vaccinated Against It?

It is the first vaccine that the doctor will ask your child to get if he/she gets wound. Tetanus is a rare but severe condition which occurs when bacteria enter into an open wound. It can turn fatal if left untreated, so you need to follow the vaccination schedule in order to control the infection. Indulging in substance abuse (especially the ones that require injecting with syringes) increases the risk of tetanus.

Causes
This disorder is caused by the bacteria called ‘Clostridium tetani’. The bacterium is known to survive for an extended period outside the body, and is found in places such as soil and the manure of cows and horses. The bacteria enter the body through a wound, multiply rapidly and then release a toxin. This toxin causes muscle spasms and stiffness, thus affecting your nerves. The bacteria can enter the body through cuts, burns, animal bites, body piercings and eye injuries. However, this disorder is not contagious.

Symptoms
The symptoms of this disease can take 5-20 days to develop fully in the body. Your child may experience symptoms such as a rise in the body temperature, sweating, rapid heartbeats, muscle spasms and stiffening of the jaw muscles. These symptoms will worsen if left untreated, eventually leading to cardiac arrest or suffocation in some cases.

Treatment
If your child has a wound, the first step is to administer an injection of tetanus immunoglobulin. Tetanus immunoglobulin contains antibodies that effectively kill the tetanus bacteria. In case the symptoms start, then the child might need to be admitted to a hospital. Here, antibiotics and muscle relaxants are administered and breathing support may also be provided if required.

The preventive measure of this disorder is to be vaccinated against the ‘tetanus’ bacteria. The vaccine consists of five injections that are administered in a specific order. Once the entire course has been completed, it usually provides lifelong protection against the tetanus bacteria. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a pediatrician.

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