Tetanus is a disease caused by bacteria found in soil and animal faeces entering the body through open wounds. It is easily preventable and most people in the UK are vaccinated against the disease.
Symptoms can present themselves at the site of injury as well as the characteristic “lockjaw”. Local symptoms are rare and will involve muscle twitches at the site of injury which should subside over a few weeks. If the toxin has spread through the system then this brings on the general feeling of discomfort or unease, involuntary muscle spasms, clenching of the jaw, stiffness of the neck and back. There will be a significant rise in temperature and the heart rate as well as an increased rate of breathing.
Tetanus requires hospitalization as antibiotics and immunoglobulin (a substance to neutralise the toxin) are required to control the disease and spasms, and also to prevent respiratory problems.
Although tetanus is well controlled in most of the western hemisphere, no country is free of the bacteria which causes tetanus. The risk may be lower in some countries, therefore maintaining a high traveller immunity is important through vaccinating.
The best form of prevention is to ensure your vaccination schedule is up to date and you have had your booster when it is due. While travelling be careful to avoid injury, and if you have a penetrating wound then it should be checked by a healthcare professional.
There is a vaccination available in the UK as a single booster dose for children the age of 10 upwards which provides 10 years of cover. This is available from our pharmacy for £20, for further information contact the pharmacy team on 02089021328.