by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Tetanus is an infection of the nervous system. It can be deadly when it is not treated. There are different types.
Tetanus is caused by bacteria that is found in soil, dust, or manure. It enters your body through a break in the skin. Once inside the bacteria makes a toxin. This toxin causes tetanus.
Tetanus is most common in places that have rich, moist climates. Other things that may raise your risk are:
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health past. An exam will be done. Vaccination history may be needed. This can be enough to make the diagnosis.
Care is needed right away. Some people may need help with breathing. Other treatments may include:
A tetanus vaccine may be given to those who have not had a recent one.
The best way to lower the chances of tetanus is to get the vaccination:
Other things that can lower the risk are:
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Tetanus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tetanus. Updated May 14, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2020.
Tetanus vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Updated February 28, 2019. Accessed March 18, 2020.
Thwaites CL, Beeching NJ, et al. Maternal and neonatal tetanus. Lancet. 2015 Jan 24;385(9965):362-370.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 9/9/2020