Tetanus is the result of an infection by the possibly lethal bacteria Clostridium tetani (C. tetani), which is present in soil, manure and dust and enters the body via an open injury, especially a puncture injury or the newborn's umbilicus. The bacteria discharge a toxic substance that goes into the central nervous system resulting in acute stiffness of the muscles and spasms. The initial symptoms of this condition include mild seizure in the jaw muscles and, hence, tetanus is also known as ‘lockjaw'. The toxin released by the bacteria also has the aptitude to pass throughout the body by means of the lymph system and the blood stream. While the toxic substance circulates more extensively, it gets in the way of the normal functioning of the nerves all over the body, resulting in widespread muscle spasms or seizures. While tetanus can be cured, if a patient suffering from this condition is not treated timely, it may even prove to be fatal. Having entered the body, the organism passes through an incubation phase that may vary from one day to 12 days or sometimes this period may be more prolonged. However, tetanus is not a contagious condition and does not transmit from one individual to another.
It may be noted that the lesion that the bacteria enters the body through generally heals prior to the emergence of other symptoms of this condition. The ailment starts with the muscles becoming stiff and seizures in the jaw as well as the neck (a condition known as trismus). During the subsequent 24 hours, the illness advances into excruciating muscle stiffness and seizures all over the body. In fact, such spasms may extend to the muscles in the abdomen, upper arms as well as the thighs. The effect of the infection is so severe that it damages the normal functioning of the muscles to such an extent that the patient my even stop breathing during the initial three to four days of being affected by the bacteria. Such a condition may prove to be life-threatening and it may be essential to hospitalize the patient. In addition, the patient might also require close medical care.
It is important that you call your doctor right away in case your child has a punctured wound. It may be important to update the tetanus immunization of your child, while the wound should be cleaned properly and all foreign matters as well as dead tissues should be removed by means of surgery (debridement) from the wound to put off any risk of developing tetanus. Also call your doctor immediately even if your child does not remember sustaining any injury that could make him/ her vulnerable to tetanus, but shows the early symptoms of the illness.
It has been observed that most people suffering from tetanus usually have an infected cut or a deep puncture wound, for instance any wound attributable to stepping on a nail. Occasionally, the wound is so minute that the individual generally does not even visit a doctor. In fact, wound pertaining to dead skin, for instance, frostbite, gangrene, burn or crush injuries, are more liable to develop into tetanus. Even when wounds that are infected with saliva, soil or feces are not cleaned properly and the skin is perforated by non-sterile needles, for instance any needle associated with any drug use or tattooing or body piercing undertaken by oneself, people are confronted with an augmented risk of developing tetanus.
Tetanus may occur in another form too and this is called neonatal tetanus, especially occurring in newborns delivered in unhygienic condition. Newborns whose umbilical cord stump is infected are more susceptible to this form of tetanus. It may be noted that this type of tetanus was widespread in the United States before immunizations. However, currently regular vaccinations for tetanus generate antibodies which mothers transmit to the fetus - still unborn babies. In effect, newborn tetanus or neonatal tetanus has become extremely infrequent in developed nations primarily owing to such maternal antibodies as well as the techniques employed in taking care of the sanitary cord.
In actual fact, with the new immunization program, occurrence of tetanus is generally rare these days in the United States as well as other countries, on a yearly basis, possibly below 50 cases of this ailment are reported from the United States. Nevertheless, tetanus is more widespread in several developing nations that have a fewer effectual prevention and vaccination program against this ailment.
It may be noted here that basically there are two vital methods of preventing tetanus. First, through immunization against the condition and, second, administering an injection called post-exposure tetanus prophylaxis after an individual has sustained any injury that might develop into tetanus.
In effect, tetanus vaccine forms a part of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) immunization program for children. Kids are generally given four doses of DTaP vaccine prior to becoming two years of age. Subsequent to this immunization program, they are given a booster dose between the periods when they are four to six years old. Following the booster dose, they are advised to take a Tdap booster when they are around 11 or 12 years old. Afterward, they are given a tetanus and diphtheria booster once in every 10 years all through their adulthood. It is important that you ensure that your children get the right vaccinations at the right time and also that they do not miss any appointment scheduled for this purpose.
Supplements and herbs
The herbal remedies summarized here focus on assisting the recuperation of your child from a puncture injury. It may be noted that these herbal treatments do not propose to be a replacement for suitable tetanus vaccination or treatment of a puncture injury by a qualified medical practitioner. A combined formula from the herbs goldenseal and Echinacea would facilitate in improving the immune system of your child. For best results, give one dose of this combined herbal formula to your child thrice or four times every day, for 3 days.
It may be noted that garlic too possesses antibacterial attributes. Hence, you may select a neutral variety of the herb and follow the directions regarding the dosage on the label of the product. Alternately, in case your child is older than a year, you may also give him/ her three cloves of pounded fresh garlic along with honey daily.
You can also prepare an herbal poultice by adding one tablespoon of marshmallow root, plantain, Oregon grape root and goldenseal in a cup of water and boil and seethe the substances in water for about 20 minutes. You may choose to use any one or all the herbs to prepare the poultice. Next, steep a washcloth into the resultant solution and apply it topically on the puncture wound or affected area for around 20 to 30 minutes. Apply this poultice thrice daily regularly for two to three days.
In addition, super salve, a balm prepared using Echinacea, chaparral, usnea moss and hops, effectively combats all types of infections and is, at the same time, comforting to wounded skin. You may also apply this salve thrice or four times daily on the affected area.
A number of homeopathic remedies, which help in curing tetanus and alleviate its symptoms, are also available. Below is a brief account of some of these homeopathic medications.