Tetanus-Causes,Signs,Prevention And Treatment.
Tetanus also known as ‘lockjaw’ results when a germ that lives in the feces of animals or people enters the body through a wound. Deep or dirty wounds are especially dangerous.
WOUNDS VERY LIKELY TO CAUSE TETANUS
- Animal bite, especially those of dogs and pigs.
- Gunshot and knife wounds.
- Holes made with dirty needles.
- Injuries caused by barbed wire.
- Puncture wounds from thorns, splinters or nails.
TETANUS CAUSES IN THE NEW BORN CHILD
Tetanus germs enter through the umbilical cord of a newborn baby because of lack of cleanliness or failure to take other simple precautions. The chance of tetanus is greater :
- When the cord has not been cut close to the body.
- When the newly cut cord is tightly covered or is not kept dry.
- When the cord is cut a long way from the body, the chance of tetanus is greater.
SIGNS OF TETANUS
- An infected wound (sometimes no wound can be found).
- Discomfort and difficulty in swallowing.
- The jaw gets stiff (lockjaw), including the muscles of the neck and other parts of the body.
- Painful convulsions (sudden tightening) of the jaw and finally of the whole body. Moving or touching the person may trigger sudden spasm. Also sudden bright light or noise may also bring on these spasms.
In the newborn, the first signs of tetanus generally appear 3 to 10 days after birth. The child begins to cry continuously and is unable to suck. Often, the umbilical area is dirty or infected. After several hours or days, lockjaw and the other signs of tetanus begin.
It is very important to start treating tetanus at the first sign. If you suspect tetanus or if a newborn child cries continuously or stops nursing, make this test :
TEST OF KNEE REFLEXES
- With the leg hanging freely, tap the knee with a knuckle just below the kneecap.
- If the leg jumps just a little bit, the reaction is normal.
- If the leg jumps high, this indicates a serious illness like tetanus or perhaps meningitis or poisoning with certain medicines or rat poison.
NOTE : This test is useful especially when you suspect tetanus in a newborn baby.
HOW TO PREVENT TETANUS
Even in the best hospitals, half of the people with tetanus die. It is much easier to prevent tetanus than to treat it.
- Vaccination : This is the surest protection against tetanus. Both children and adults should be vaccinated. Vaccinate your whole family at the nearest health center. Repeat vaccination every 10 years for complete protection. Vaccinating pregnant women against tetanus will prevent tetanus in newborn babies.
- When you have a wound, especially a dirt or deep wound, clean and take care of it very well.
- If the wound is very big, deep or dirty, seek for medical help. If you have not been vaccinated against tetanus, take penicillin. Also consider getting an injection of tetanus antitoxin.
- In newborn babies, cleanliness is very important to prevent tetanus. The instrument used to cut the umbilical cord should be sterilized and the cord should be cut short; also the umbilical cord area should be kept clean and dry.
NOTE : When the baby’s cord is cut short, kept dry and left open to the air, the baby stays healthy. But when the baby’s cord is left long, kept tightly covered and not kept dry, the baby dies of tetanus.
Tetanus is a deadly disease. Make sure that you seek for medical help at the first sign. If there is any delay in getting help, do the following :
- Examine the whole body for infected wounds or sores. Often, the wound will contain pus. Open the wound and wash it with soap and boiled water; make sure you remove all dirt, pus, thorns, splinters etc completely. Flood the wound with hydrogen peroxide if you have any.
- Inject 1 million units of procaine penicillin at once and repeat every 12 hours. For newborn babies, crystalline penicillin is better. If there is no penicillin, use another antibiotic like tetracycline.
- Inject 40,000 to 50,000 units of tetanus antitoxin or 5,000 units of Human Immune Globulin if you can get them. Be sure to follow all the precautions. Human Immune Globulin has less risk of severe allergic reaction but is more expensive and harder to obtain.
- As long as the person can swallow, give nutritious liquids in frequent, small sips.
- To control convulsions, inject phenobarbital or diazepam (valium) Adults : 10 to 20 mg to start with, and more as necessary.
- Touch and move the person as little as possible. Avoid noise and bright light.
- If necessary, use a catheter (rubber tube) connected to a syringe to suck the mucus from the nose and throat. This helps clear the airway.
- For the newborn with tetanus, if possible, have a health worker or doctor put in a nose-to-stomach tube and feed the baby the mother’s milk expressed from her breasts. This provides needed nutrition and fights infection.