Tetanus: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that affects your nervous system and muscles. It is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibres. Tetanus is commonly known as lockjaw and can interfere with your ability to breathe. The bacteria live in soil, saliva, dust, and manure.

Recovery Time

For patients who survive tetanus, recovery can be long (1 to 2 months). Recovery from Tetanus will not result in immunity, second attacks can occur and immunization is needed even after recovery.


  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Immunization history

FAQs prepared by doctor

1. I have problem opening the jaw, am I suffering from tetanus.
  • The diagnosis of tetanus is clinical culture of C. tetani from a wound provides supportive evidence.
  • The few conditions that mimic generalized tetanus include strychnine poisoning and dystonic reactions to antidopaminergic drugs. Muscle rigidity characteristically continuous in Tetanus but is episodic in the latter two conditions.
  • Tetanus can be confused with other causes of locked jaw, such as Oropharyngeal infection, Hypocalcaemia and Meningoencephalitis are included in the differential diagnosis of neonatal tetanus.
2. How to prevent pregnant mothers from tetanus?
  • Tetanus can happen to delivering mothers as there are bleeding and cuts which happen during delivery which are prone for infections.
  • Standard WHO recommendations for prevention of maternal and neonatal tetanus call for administration of two doses of TT at least 4 weeks apart to the previously unimmunized pregnant woman.
  • However, in high-risk areas, a more intensive approach has been successful, with all women of childbearing age receiving a primary course along with education on safe delivery and postnatal practices.
3. I do not remember when did I take last dose of tetanus vaccine, what shall I do?
  • Individuals sustaining wounds should be immunized if their vaccination status is incomplete or unknown or if their last booster was given >10 years earlier.
4. Will I have a reaction to the tetanus vaccine?
  • Some people may have a reaction to the tetanus vaccine.
  • You may have pain, swelling or redness in the area where you have had the injection. Sometimes there may be a small lump that goes hard, but this is not painful.
  • Occasionally, some people have a fever, convulsions, develop pale or bluish skin, go limp or have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Ask your Doctor to explain these risks to you.
  • Very rarely some people may have an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine. This is when your body has a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. It means you have problems breathing and your blood pressure drops. If you are concerned or have had a reaction to a vaccine before, ask your doctor.

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