ZocdocAnswersWhat are the symptoms of tetanus?

Question

What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Cut my arm on a rusted fence at my buddy's house. Could I get tetanus? What are the symptoms?

Answer

Tetanus is a state of uncontrolled constant muscle contraction. It can have many causes, but the one which is associated with infection is caused by the bacterium Clostridium Tetani. This bug likes to live in dirty places such as rusty metal and soil. People that are susceptible to getting this infection are people that have been exposed to the bacteria and have not been vaccinated. Symptoms include increased muscle tension, including the muscles of the face (causing lock jaw) and muscle spasms which can be very painful. Treatment for those that actually get tetanus includes antibiotics and treatment with an antibody that neutralizes the toxin created by the bacteria. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss this issue. If you have had a tetanus shot in the last 5 years (either the TD shot or the Tdap shot) then you should be fine. You can just treat your wound according to your doctor's orders. If it has been between 5 and 10 years, then you can get a repeat tetanus shot. If it has been longer than 10 years, or if you have never received the shot, then you may benefit from both the vaccination and a dose of the anti-toxin antibody.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.