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7 main symptoms of Tetanus Infection: How to confirm and What to do

Tetanus symptoms usually appear between 2 and 28 days after contact with Clostridium tetani bacteria, which can enter the body in the form of spores through small wounds or skin lesions caused by objects contaminated by soil or animal feces containing the bacterium.

Infection occurs through the entry of bacterial spores, which within the body and at low oxygen concentrations produce toxins that lead to the development of the typical signs and symptoms of this disease, the main ones being:

  1. Muscle spasms;
  2. Stiffness of neck muscles;
  3. Fever below 38ºC;
  4. Tummy muscles stiff and sore;
  5. Difficulty swallowing;
  6. Feeling of clenching your teeth tightly;
  7. Presence of infected wounds.

The toxin produced by the bacteria prevents the muscles from relaxing, ie the muscle remains contracted, making the process of opening the mouth and swallowing, for example, quite difficult and painful. Furthermore, if tetanus is not identified and treated, more muscles can be compromised, resulting in respiratory failure and putting the person's life at risk.

-How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of tetanus is made by the general practitioner or infectologist by evaluating the signs and symptoms presented by the person, as well as their clinical history.

Laboratory tests are often inconclusive, as a large amount of bacteria is needed to confirm the diagnosis of tetanus, although the same amount of bacteria is not needed for symptoms to appear.

-What to do

After confirming the diagnosis, it is important that treatment is started as soon as possible to prevent complications, usually starting with a vaccine against this disease in order to stimulate the immune system, followed by an injection with a neutralizing substance of the toxins of the bacteria. In addition, the use of antibiotics, muscle relaxants, and regular wound cleaning is also indicated. 

It is also important that measures are taken to prevent infection, such as keeping all wounds or burns covered and clean, as this way it is possible to prevent the bacteria from entering the body.

In addition, the main form of prevention is the tetanus vaccine, which is part of the national vaccination calendar, and should be administered in several doses that should be taken at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months of age, with a booster between 4 and 6 years old. However, the vaccine does not last for life, and therefore it must be repeated every 10 years.

(Reference - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/163063#prevention, Mayo Clinic)

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