Minor cuts and skin abrasions occur during the jobs many of us do every day. Few people take them very seriously. But everyone should know that even small cuts or scratches, under the right conditions, can result in tetanus—a serious and sometimes fatal disease of the central nervous system.
What causes Tetanus? It is caused by bacteria known as clostridium tetani that thrive in dust and dirt, especially if contaminated with sewage. When small cuts are contaminated with dirt, tetanus germs may enter your body and multiply rapidly. Then, ten days to several weeks after the initial incident, symptoms such as fever, heavy sweating, and lockjaw begin. “Lockjaw” is a painful muscle spasm in the jaw muscles that make it difficult to open your mouth. These muscle
spasms then spread throughout the body, often interfering with breathing. You could die from this condition unless a physician performs a tracheotomy by cutting an opening in your windpipe that enables you to breathe. This is a serious situation! The fatality rate varies from 30-90% depending on how soon treatment begins.
How can you prevent it? To keep this serious condition from happening, never ignore minor cuts and abrasions. Clean the wound with an antiseptic and cover it with a sterile bandage or Band-Aid to keep dirt out of the cut. When should you see a doctor—even for minor cuts?
* If you haven’t had a tetanus shot within the last five years.
* If the cut is very dirty, or if there is any possibility of exposure to sewage (animal or
human) in any form.
* If signs of infection such as swelling or redness develop—especially if you’ve had a puncture wound.
* If any of the symptoms of tetanus develop such as stiffness of abdominal and back muscles, contraction of facial muscles, fever, sweating, or lockjaw.
Early treatment is critical! Tetanus can be successfully treated with an antitoxin in most cases—if treatment is started early. Take care of those small cuts and scratches as soon as they happen.
Never underestimate the danger of tetanus. It can kill!