Tetanus (lockjaw) is a preventable but dangerous bacterial
infection that causes muscle spasms, trouble opening the mouth (lockjaw),
trouble swallowing, and seizures. Usually found in dirt and soil, tetanus
bacteria typically enter the body through a wound or cut.
Tetanus bacteria thrive only in the absence of oxygen. The deeper
and narrower the wound, the less oxygen is around it, and the greater the
possibility of tetanus. For example, tetanus bacteria can thrive in a puncture
wound from a dirty nail.
Following the recommended immunization schedule helps prevent
tetanus. Before age 6, children receive a series of tetanus shots (DTaP). Then,
teens and adults get regular tetanus booster shots.
A person who has a dirty cut or wound should get a tetanus shot as
soon as possible if at least 5 years have passed since his or her last tetanus
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology