Tetanus is often associated with rust, but what does rust have to do with tetanus? Tetanus is a very serious disease that is often associated with rusted objects. The bacterium Clostridium tetani form spores that can survive in environments without oxygen, like soil or dust.
Rust is the host of the bacteria, and when they come into contact with an open wound, they will grow and produce a toxin called tetanospasmin, which causes muscle stiffness and spasms. These spasms can be so severe that they snap bones or even stop breathing.
Tetanus is a common worry after a cut or puncture wound, but many people don’t know it’s an infection caused by a bacterium. Bacteria live everywhere in nature, including on iron and steel. So, you shouldn’t get closer to any rusty metal when you have any cut or wound on you.
Why Do People Associate Rust with Tetanus?
It is a common myth among people that rust causes tetanus. Getting tetanus when you come in contact with rust might be someone’s idea since rust is likely found in a dirty and abandoned environment, which is a breeding ground for tetanus. This idea has been passed around to be the truth. However, the environment doesn’t need to be visibly dirty before you get tetanus. For instance, there are reported cases of people who get tetanus after being wounded with a kitchen knife.
While still in the environment, tetanus bacteria will be inactive in spore form, which makes it easy for them to survive. The spore gains access to someone’s body when there is a deep wound and they won’t get oxygen again, which then activates the bacteria. Once the bacteria is activated in the host body, it multiplies and produces dangerous toxins that cause bacteria. Tetanus is caused by these dangerous toxins in the body and not the bacteria.
Who Can Get Tetanus?
Anyone can get tetanus, irrespective of age. Are you surprised about the age? Yes, newborn babies can get neonatal tetanus within the first twenty-eight days of life, if there is contamination of the umbilical stump. The risk is, however, higher in people who have not been vaccinated against tetanus, those who don’t keep up-to-date booster shots, those who have diabetes, and those who have a record of a weak immune system. Cases of tetanus are very high in low-income countries. You will begin to notice symptoms within three to twenty-one days of infection.
How Can I Avoid Tetanus?
The bacteria that causes tetanus is in the environment, which makes everybody prone to it once there is a deep wound. With some simple tasks, you can avoid getting tetanus. Here is a list of some of the things you can do to avoid getting tetanus.
- Up to date vaccine: This is a role you must play to avoid getting tetanus. If you have little children below twelve years, they should take the number of required vaccines, likely twice. Also, adults should take one shot of the vaccine every decade.
- Be careful with sharp objects: The bacteria that causes tetanus will have access to your body when there is an open wound. Therefore, when handling sharp objects, such as knives, cutlass, razors, and many more, you should be protecting yourself.
- Get first aid: If you sustain any wound that is associated with dirt, you should clean such a wound as soon as possible to reduce the risk of getting tetanus.
- Visit the hospital: Though avoidable, accidents can still happen. In a situation where you have an open wound, it is recommended that you visit the hospital for proper medical care, especially if the wound is very deep.
- Follow the doctor’s recommendation: At the hospital, the doctor will test and guide you on what you can do. The doctor will likely recommend that you take another shot of the tetanus vaccine if you have not had one in the last five years.
- Clean delivery: Tetanus can be prevented in newborn babies when pregnant mothers take immunization. In addition, cord care, clean delivery, and proper wound care can also help prevent neonatal tetanus.
Treatment for Tetanus
It is unlikely you get tetanus when you keep an up-to-date vaccine. Nevertheless, if you have an open wound or you show symptoms of tetanus such as stiff muscles in the shoulder, back, and the neck, spasms in the jaw muscle, difficult swallowing, profuse sweating and fever, seizure, rapid irregular heartbeat, difficulty in breathing, and many more, you should visit the hospital.
Not only will the wound be treated properly, but you will also be given a booster vaccine shot that will aid your recovery. In addition, you might be placed on a ventilator if you have difficulty breathing. Once your condition is improved, you might be placed on a scheduled shot to improve your tetanus immunity.
Though cases of getting tetanus are very low in countries with advanced medical care, getting tetanus is, however, not a death sentence as most patients do survive it and they return to normal life. The risk of death is, however, high with older people and those who have a rapid transition from infection to severe symptoms.