How does a rusty nail cause tetanus?
A rusty nail has been associated to tetanus for a long time. It is then not surprising that stepping on it requires serious concern. A rusty nail can be very dangerous, as it is a perfect environment for the Clostridium tetani—a bacterium causing tetanus—spores to grow. This bacteria can be found in soil, dust, rust, even animal feces. It enters your body through an opened wound, which can be caused by a nail pierce. Inside your body, the bacterium endospores travels through blood to reach central nervous system and release a toxin which can cause muscle spasm or cramps, nerve system cramps, and neck stiffness. This is what we often refer as tetanus symptoms. Because of the symptoms, tetanus is often referred to as lockjaw, because it specifically causes your jaw to stiff. When not treated properly, tetanus may lead to death. Tetanus is not a contagious disease. Thus, you can get it through cuts and others wounds, but will not get it from someone else. Other symptoms of tetanus include:
- Severe headache
- Muscles stiffness, which usually starts in your jaw and neck, and goes to your arms, legs, back, and other body muscles.
- Fever and heavy sweating—can be cold sweating.
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Sore throat
How do you prevent tetanus?
Tetanus spread can be prevented through a vaccine. This vaccine should be given to both children and adults. If you received the vaccine as a child, it is usually given together with a vaccine for diphtheria and pertussis, called as Tdap vaccine. After receive this primary shot, you need to repeat the shots every ten years. This vaccine is recommended as tetanus is not easy to cure. In some countries, couples are advised to get this shot before they get married, in order to avoid pertussis during mother’s pregnancy.
How do I know I need tetanus shot after stepping on a rusty nail?
Stepping on a rusty nail will induce tetanus, since the rusty nail is usually full of dirt and thus, might contain Clostridium tetanibacteria which can cause tetanus. Immediately after stepping on a rusty nail, you have to do the procedures to avoid infection. Wash your wound thoroughly with running water and mild soap to get rid of the dirt and rust you got from the rusty nail. You need to put some pressure if bleeding happens. Press the area surrounding the sound with your finger until the bleeding stops. When you finish rinsing the wound, dry it with a clean towel. You need to apply antibiotic ointment as the first aid. If the nail leaves a deep puncture and cause severe bleeding, you really have to get a tetanus shot and seek for a medical help. You also need to observe your wound and body temperature, and also be aware of tetanus symptoms that might accompany the puncture. If you feel one or two obvious symptoms of tetanus, go to the clinic immediately. If you haven’t got your tetanus shot in your life, you need one after the wound.
How soon should I get the tetanus shot after injured?
Although tetanus-causing bacteria needs three days to incubate and release the toxin to your blood, you do not have to wait for that long. Soon after you get wounded, try to recall the last time you get a shot of tetanus. Tetanus vaccine should be given when you are young and be repeated once every 10 years. When you step on a rusty nail and haven’t got the shot in the last five years, you need to go to the hospital within 24 hours to get the shot. If you have got the shot within the last five years and the wound is not deep and severe, you can take your time to see whether you have the tetanus symptoms. One thing to remember is that the size of your wound will not determine the risk of catching tetanus. Thus, it is always better to seek for medical advice after you perform first aids to handle your wound.