Lockjaw: Can it Happen to You?

There are a large number of people who suffer from a tedious and painful disease. That disease is tetanus, which is more commonly known as lockjaw and may lead to more severe health problems. It is called lockjaw because some of the symptoms include having problems swallowing and opening the mouth. Some diseases just name themselves. There are many different ways in which a person can get lockjaw. Considering the incredibly serious nature of this condition, it’s really best to avoid getting it at all. Afterall, prevention is the best cure sometimes. Keep reading for more information on lockjaw and what it entails.

What Causes Lockjaw?

The Clostridium tetani bacterium may enter the body in several ways. This bacterium exists in the environment nearly everywhere, including manure, dust, and soil. Once the germ enters the body through a cut or other entry areas, the disease may grow and spread. One of the more common ways a person gets tetanus is by stepping on a nail or otherwise stepping on a sharp object. Any source of the broken skin may allow the bacteria to spread. If the wound becomes contaminated with saliva, feces or dirt, tetanus may enter. Burns, injuries skin punctures, dead skin, and crush injuries may also provide the tetanus bacterium the entryway it needs to spread through the body, too.

Some of the rarer ways that a person might get tetanus are through:

  • Through surgical procedures.
  • Dental infections.
  • Insect bites.
  • Sores or infections that take some time to heal.
  • IV drug use.
  • Injections that are given in a muscle.

The Symptoms of Lockjaw

There are some obvious and simple symptoms that people may see when they get lockjaw. They include:

  • Cramping jaw muscles.
  • Muscle spasms that occur throughout the body, especially in the stomach.
  • Stiff, sore muscles throughout the body.
  • Seizures or seizure-like symptoms.
  • Problems swallowing.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • A headache.

The period from exposure to the bacterium to the signs of illness remains from three days to three weeks. Several serious and dangerous symptoms can also occur. These are:

  • Fractured bones.
  • Laryngospasms or vocal cord tightening.
  • Hospital-acquired infections due to injections a patient may receive.
  • Pulmonary embolism, aka a blood clot in the lungs.
  • Lung infections such as pneumonia.
  • Problems breathing that may be so bad they lead to death.

Treatments for Lockjaw

Lockjaw is typically treated by hospitalization and is considered an emergency by medical personnel. Other treatments include:

  • Medication
  • Serious wound care.
  • Medicines for muscle spasms.
  • A tetanus vaccination.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Breathing assistance, if necessary.
  • Prevention

Receiving a preventative vaccination remains the original way to keep from contracting the tetanus bacterium. Since tetanus can be found in soil, air, and dust, it is almost impossible to stay away from the disease. Vaccinations aren’t pleasant but remain the single best way to keep from contracting this illness. Inoculations occur at several points during a person’s childhood, at about age 11-12, and as an adult as recommended by your doctor. One shot will not protect you for life, so you’ll have to have a booster shot when necessary to keep you safe. Proper wound care also remains crucial when preventing tetanus. Every wound needs to be thoroughly cleaned and treated. Even blisters, breaks in the skin or scrapes need to be addressed. Be sure you cleanse your hands thoroughly before giving first aid to a skin injury. And certainly, check with your healthcare provider if any complications or tetanus symptoms arise. Also, be sure you know when you had your last tetanus shot, and keep your doctor informed about these injections. He or she can keep you up to date on your tetanus shots, or give you a preventative tetanus shot if you are showing symptoms and haven’t had a shot. So even if you get exposed to the tetanus bacterium, you don’t have to suffer from lockjaw if you take precautions and take care of your wounds.

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