What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a serious infection caused by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani. It is found in soil, dust and manure and is sometimes called ‘lockjaw’ because it causes painful tightening of the muscles in the jaw.

Tetanus can be life-threatening if not treated immediately and needs urgent medical attention. It is important to keep your tetanus immunisations up to date as this is the best way to prevent the infection.

Signs and Symptoms of Tetanus

The early signs and symptoms of tetanus infection include:

  • Stiffness and spasm of the jaw muscles, leading to lockjaw
  • Stiffness of the neck and abdominal muscles
  • Difficulty in breathing and swallowing
  • Sweating and high fever
  • Blood pressure and heartbeat changes

Tetanus Treatment and Prevention

If you suspect you have tetanus, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Treatment usually includes antibiotics, a tetanus toxoid vaccine and sometimes it may involve muscle relaxants. If the infection has caused a lot of damage, hospitalisation may be necessary.

Getting vaccinated against tetanus is the best way to avoid infection and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends everyone receive booster doses of the vaccination every 10 years. It is especially important for people who are at high risk of exposure, such as people who work with animals, farmers, gardeners and healthcare professionals.