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Understanding Tetanus -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Tetanus?

You should suspect tetanus if a cut or wound is followed by one or more of these symptoms:

  • Stiffness of the neck, jaw, and other muscles, often accompanied by a grotesque, grinning expression
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irritability
  • Uncontrollable spasms of the jaw, called lockjaw, and neck muscles
  • Painful, involuntary contraction of other muscles

In some cases, symptoms will develop in the absence of any cut or wound that you can recall. In addition, you may notice restlessness, lack of appetite, and drooling.

Recommended Related to Children's Vaccines

Understanding Tetanus -- the Basics

Tetanus is a dangerous nerve ailment caused by the toxin of a common bacterium, Clostridium tetani. Bacterial spores are found in soil -- most frequently in cultivated soil, least frequently in virgin soil. The spores can remain infectious for more than 40 years in soil. They also exist in environments as diverse as animal excrement, house dust, and the human colon. If the spores enter a wound that penetrates the skin and extends deeper than oxygen can reach, they germinate and produce a toxin...

Read the Understanding Tetanus -- the Basics article > >

Call Your Doctor About Tetanus If:

You are bitten by an animal or wounded by an object that might be contaminated with dirt, feces, or dust, and you have not been immunized against tetanus or received a booster within the last five years. Tetanus infection can be fatal and should be treated as soon as possible.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 11, 2015

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