Tetanus: A hidden danger from sandy soil

In everyday life, there is always a potential risk of causing tetanus. People are often afraid of tetanus when stepping on a nail or brushing a rusty iron door. However, open wounds covered with sand are the most common source of infection. Tetanus can be fatal, excruciatingly painful, and expensive to treat. Equip yourself with the necessary knowledge to prevent and treat when you or a loved one is at risk of tetanus infection.


1. What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a serious infection that causes muscle stiffness and spasms. Tetanus is sometimes called “stiff jaw disease” because it causes spasms of the muscles that squeeze the jaw.

Tetanus bacteria (germ) live in the soil. They can enter the body through an open wound (cut or scratch on the skin). Tetanus can also enter the body if a person uses non-sterile needles. Most young people in Vietnam, who are fully vaccinated, have acquired immunity to protect against these bacteria.

Tetanus: A hidden danger from sandy soil

Tetanus is a dangerous disease caused by bacteria.

2. What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Symptoms include:

  • Jaw or neck muscles are stiff, making it difficult to move your jaw or neck
  • The smile looks weird, doesn't go away when you try to relax your mouth muscles
  • Tight, painful muscles that don't let go when you try to relax them
  • Difficulty breathing, swallowing or both
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Sweat even when you don't exercise or feel hot
  • Faster-than-normal or irregular heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Muscle spasms cause terrible pain

>> Difficulty swallowing is one of the typical symptoms of tetanus, but it is also a manifestation of other dangerous diseases. Immediately see the doctor's article about possible dysphagia

Tetanus: A hidden danger from sandy soil

Classic image of a person with severe tetanus.

People with severe tetanus can experience spasms of large muscles that cause the body to stiffen and bounce like a bent board. This is why the disease is named “tetanus”. Common symptoms:

  • Hold my hand tight
  • Back arched, arched off the floor or bed
  • Legs outstretched
  • Arms move back and forth
  • Shortness of breath – They may even stop breathing with respiratory muscle spasms. This is really dangerous!

3. Should I see a doctor?

See your doctor or nurse right away if you have:

  • Puncture wound, eg a nail through the skin.
  • A cut, scrape, or other wound that you can't completely clean.
  • Trauma and something left inside the body (like a nail or shard of glass).
  • An animal bite.
  • Diabetes and pain in the legs, feet or elsewhere.
  • stiff jaw or neck,
  • Tight muscles cause pain, you try to relax yourself but can't.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Tetanus: A hidden danger from sandy soil

Do not take small wounds lightly because they are potentially at risk of tetanus infection.

It is especially important if you had a puncture wound or an animal bite and your last tetanus shot was 5 years ago or so, or if you don't remember when you had your tetanus shot.

4. Is there a tetanus test?

Is not. There is no simple test to diagnose tetanus. But your doctor will learn about your symptoms and vaccination history, along with an exam. This infection is common in people who have been traumatized, have not been vaccinated against tetanus, or do not have the correct booster.

5. Is tetanus really dangerous?

Yes, definitely yes. People with tetanus must go to the hospital . Some people even die from tetanus. Contraction of the respiratory muscles can cause you to stop breathing. Muscle spasms in the jaw and esophagus can prevent you from eating.

6. How is tetanus treated?

Doctors treat tetanus in the hospital, sometimes in the intensive care unit (ICU). Treatments include:

  • Clean cuts or scrapes to remove skin and tissue that may have tetanus bacteria
  • Give medicine to prevent further infection with other bacteria
  • Get tetanus vaccine
  • Take medications and treatments to relieve muscle spasms, shortness of breath, pain, and other symptoms
  • Use a ventilator if you can't breathe on your own
  • Use a feeding tube if you are unable to feed or drink on your own
  • Do physical therapy to help muscles recover

>> Have you prepared before the tetanus examination ? Find out now to find out what it is!

7. Can tetanus be prevented?

It's correct. To reduce your chances of getting tetanus, do the following:

  • Get tetanus vaccine

Tetanus: A hidden danger from sandy soil

Vaccination is the best way to prevent tetanus

This teaches your body how to fight tetanus. Most children growing up in Vietnam who are enrolled in the expanded immunization program have received this vaccine.

  • Get regular tetanus shots. Adults should get a tetanus shot every 10 years . For deep and dirty wounds, you'll need an extra shot of tetanus vaccine if you haven't had one in the past 5 years. If you are not sure when you have had an injection, it is best to give one more shot at the time of injury.
  • Wash the cut or scrape with soap and water, possibly using an antibiotic ointment on the wound. See your doctor if you can't get all the dirt out or can't see all of the damage (eg, shoulder, back, back of thigh injury).
  • Do not inject drugs that do not guarantee sterility. Do not share needles with others.

We already know that tetanus can be fatal. Fortunately, it is completely preventable. Please check your vaccination schedule to actively vaccinate against tetanus every 10 years, avoiding the situation of "losing cows to build a barn". And keep in mind cases at risk of tetanus infection for appropriate handling, for the safety of you and your loved ones.

Doctor Nguyen Trung Nghia