How to Avoid Tetanus
Treatment for Tetanus
Most cases of tetanus in the United States occur in people who have not received a .
This combination vaccine, known as DTaP, offers protection from diphtheria, , and .
When tetanus does occur, it's a medical emergency that can take months to fully recover, and 1 out of 5 people who get tetanus will die.
The death rate is higher for infants who are left untreated, and children who get tetanus may need weeks of hospital care.
However, with proper treatment, less than 15 percent of people with tetanus die.
How is Tetanus Diagnosed?
While there isn't a specific laboratory test to diagnose tetanus, there are tests that can help exclude diseases with symptoms similar to tetanus, such as meningitis, rabies, and strychnine poisoning.
Once those are ruled out, medical professionals base tetanus diagnosis on the following:
- A physical exam
- Medical and immunization history
- Signs and symptoms of muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain
Treatment Options for Tetanus
There is no cure for tetanus, and wounds on the head or face that become infected with tetanus tend to be more dangerous than other parts of the body that become infected.
Treatment involves caring for the wound and taking medications to ease symptoms. Treatment may include the following:
- Surgery to clean the wound and remove the source of the poison
- Antibiotics given orally or with an injection
- Medicine (tetanus immune globulin) to reverse the poison that hasn't yet bonded to nerve tissue
- Muscle relaxers, such as diazepam (Valium)
- Strong sedatives to control muscle spasms
- Other medications, such as magnesium sulfate, beta-blockers or morphine may help regulate involuntary muscle activity, such as your heartbeat and breathing
- Breathing support with oxygen, a breathing tube, and a breathing machine
- Bed rest with a calm environment (dim light, reduced noise, and stable temperature)
Since catching tetanus doesn't make you immune to getting the disease again, you'll also need to receive a tetanus booster vaccine to prevent future infection.
In addition to treatment, feeding through nasoduodenal tubes, gastrostomy tube feedings, or parenteral hyperalimentation (nutrients provided through a catheter) may be required to avoid choking and to maintain healthy nutrition throughout recovery.
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