Tetanus

Description

Because tetanus causes extreme stiffness of the jaw, it is also known as lockjaw. The condition is caused by a soildwelling bacteria called Clostridium tetani. This bacteria-tainted soil can enter the body via a deep wound, such as a puncture wound created by stepping on a nail or garden implement. If the bacteria travel to the deepest part of the wound, where there is no oxygen, they germinate and produce a toxin that interferes with the nerves controlling your muscles. Tetanus symptoms generally appear five days to three weeks after an injury. If allowed to progress untreated, tetanus can cause body-wide convulsions and death. Tetanus is especially dangerous to young children and the elderly.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Stiffness of the jaw, neck, and perhaps other muscles of the torso
  • Painful spasms of jaw and neck muscles
  • Irritability
  • Difficurty swallowing
  • Body-wide convulsions (emergency symptom)

Conventional Medical Treatment

If you have received a deep wound that is or could be contaminated with soil, promptly clean the area thoroughly and see your physician immediately. If you've never had a tetanus shot, your doctor will give you one. If you've had a tetanus shot, but it has been more than ten years since the inoculation-of you can't remember the date of your last vaccination or the wound shows signs of infection-your physician will clean and disinfect the wound site and give you a booster shot. Your body will then begin manufacturing antibodies to protect you against the bacteria that may have contaminated the wound.

If you are already showing signs of tetanus, your physician will hospitalize you and place you on antibiotic therapy, and perhaps, administer antitoxin antibodies. A tetanus infection does not protect you from future re-infection. Therefore, you should receive the full series of vaccinations after recovering. It may be necessary to surgically remove the damaged tissue at the site of the wound.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture To treat tetanus (commonly called lockjaw), the practitioner, may focus on the following points: Gallbladder 14; Stomach 4, 6, and 7; Large Intestine 4 and 20; and Governing Vessel 26.

Acupressure The therapist typically manipulates points on the face and jaw to help relieve tetanus symptoms.

Chinese Herbal Therapy Arisaema is often prescribed for tetanus. Many of the immuneenhancing formulas are used most often with herbs for spasm, usually in combination with conventional treatment.

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