Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Westport
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Health Information For Teens
Tetanus (also called lockjaw) is a serious disease that affects the muscles and nerves.
The good news is that it’s rare in the United States because all babies are vaccinated against it. The disease is much more common in developing countries than it is in the United States.
Tetanus is caused by a type of
called Clostridium tetani that usually live in soil. The bacteria make a toxin (a chemical or poison that harms the body). This toxin attaches to nerves around a wound area and travels inside the nerves to the brain or spinal cord. There it interferes with the normal activity of nerves, especially the motor nerves that send direct messages to muscles.
In the United States, most cases of tetanus follow a contaminated cut or deep puncture injury, such as a wound caused by stepping on a nail. Sometimes the injury is so small the person never even sees a doctor.
Tetanus is most common in:
Tetanus often begins with muscle spasms in the jaw (called trismus). Someone also can have trouble swallowing and stiffness or pain in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, or back. The spasms can spread to the muscles of the belly, upper arms, and thighs. The symptoms can happen days to months after exposure to the bacteria.
Someone who has tetanus will be treated in a hospital, usually in the intensive care unit (ICU). There, they usually get
to kill bacteria and tetanus immune globulin (TIG) to neutralize the toxin already released. They’ll also get medicines to control muscle spasms and may need treatment to support vital body functions.
The best way to prevent tetanus is to make sure that your immunizations against it are up-to-date. You should have had:
Then, you should have a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster every 10 years through adulthood.
You can also help prevent tetanus by protecting the bottoms of your feet against deep or dirty wounds (such as being punctured by a nail). Wear thick-soled shoes or sandals instead of going barefoot, especially when outdoors.
If you do get a wound:
See your doctor for any deep puncture wounds, especially on the bottom of a foot. These are more likely to become infected without proper treatment.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve had all your tetanus vaccinations, ask a parent or call your doctor. If it’s been more than 10 years since you had a Td booster, see your doctor as soon as possible to bring your immunizations up to date.
If you get a deep cut or puncture wound and it’s been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot, see the doctor because you might need a tetanus booster to make sure that you’re fully immunized.
No one likes shots, but getting tetanus is more painful and long lasting than a shot. So make sure that your tetanus immunization status is up to date, and if you get a bad cut, see your doctor in case you need a booster.
Cellulitis is a skin infection that involves areas of tissue just below the skin’s surface. It can affect any part of the body, but it’s most common on exposed areas, such as the face, arms, or lower legs.
People can get abscesses on the skin, under the skin, in a tooth, or even inside the body. Most abscesses are caused by infection, so it can help to know what to do. Find out in this article for teens.
Wondering whether you should pierce one of your precious parts? Read about what to expect.
Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease – and they’re so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.