Tetanus is a medical condition that is very dangerous and one that can often prove to be fatal. The main manifestation of the disease is through muscle spasms which can occur thanks to a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin which is produced by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. The toxin can enter the body through a deep wound which is usually caused by something sharp and rusty.
Most people associate this disease with rust. That is why when someone pricks their finger on a rusty nail or a rusty saw blade they go and get a tetanus shot. It is not guaranteed that you will be infected in every instance when you prick yourself on a nail. However, seeing as how the condition has an 11% mortality rate which is most frequent among those that do not get the vaccine, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Even though most people think that they can get tetanus only from a rusty nail, that is not really the case. The rust simply provides a proper situation for the bacteria to develop and the nail is a good way for the toxin to get into the human body. However, this does not mean that there are not other ways in which you can get infected with tetanus. If you are infected it can take a long time for symptoms to present themselves, taking anywhere from 8 days to a few months. It basically depends on how far from the central nervous system the toxin has entered the body.
Side Effects of the Tetanus Shot
Even though tetanus can be a very dangerous medical condition, it has a vaccine that is readily available in most parts of the world. Like any other vaccine, this one is prone to side effects. In fact, some minor side effects are common in almost all of the people that get the shot. However, most of them are not dangerous and disappear after a few days. In rare cases there can be severe reactions to the vaccine that can be life threatening. However, this does not happen often so the risk of possibly staying infected far outweighs the risk of getting the shot.
The most common side effect is a general pain in the area where the patient has been injected with the vaccine. According to studies, this side effect is present in 75% of all people that get the shot. However, although this side effect is frequent it is not a dangerous one. The pain is noticeable, but very manageable and will disappear in a few days, sometimes even sooner. There is no need to consult a doctor in these cases. Besides pain most patients will feel numbness in their arm shortly after the injection was made. Others complain that the area where the shot was given feels hard like marble. These are both common symptoms and are usually treated with painkillers.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of other side effects that people who have been injected with the vaccine have experienced. Other mild side effects reported include nausea, headaches, vomiting, swelling, redness, mild body chills and low grade fevers. These symptoms are not as common as the general pain, but they do happen with a regular frequency. However, none of them are dangerous and they generally go away after a few days. There still is no need to go running to the emergency room just yet.
Most of the side effects usually go away by themselves after a few days. However, in rare cases some of them might stick around for a little while longer. These more dangerous side effects include prolonged vomiting, prolonged diarrhea and general flu like symptoms. If any of these side effects are still kicking your butt after a week then you should consult with a doctor as you might be one of the unlucky patients that suffer from the rare side effects of the tetanus vaccine. However, like previously mentioned this happens very scarcely. Usually less than one percent of the people that get the shot suffer from these symptoms. If you are one of them, try to look on the bright side: at least you are special.
Rare But Dangerous Side Effects
There are even more dangerous side effects, but these are extremely rare. Some people have experienced seizures after getting the vaccine injection. Other suffered from brain damage or they fell into a coma.
The unluckiest of patients can have severe allergic reactions to the vaccine. If you notice a rash or swelling around the injection area you should contact a doctor as soon as possible as those are not regular side effects of the vaccine and are indicative of an allergic reaction. Other signs of a bad reaction towards the shot include itchiness, dizziness, wheezing and difficulties with breathing. In some cases people with an allergic reaction can collapse or convulse. But, again, this only happens in very rare cases.
Tetanus Shot Side Effects in Children
Children have a predisposition to play with sharp, metal objects and a little negligence on their part will always lead to a cut or a wound. This will require a tetanus shot, just to be on the safe side. Other parents choose to vaccinate their kids without the immediate in an attempt to prevent future problems. This is ok, as the medical vaccine usually lasts around 10 years. Actually, the effect is permanent, but it starts to lose its potency after a while. The vaccine does not actually treat the medical condition directly. It provides the patient with the antibodies needed to fight off the effects of the neurotoxin.
Whether you are giving your child a shot because he cut himself on a rusty nail while playing hide and seek or you are just doing it to be on the safe side, you need to monitor the child carefully to watch out for any potential side effects. If the child is too young to speak then pay attention to an abnormal amount of crying which will indicate that he is suffering from pain from the injection. Check the area frequently to see if any of the symptoms of an allergic reaction are manifesting. Unfortunately, there are some side effects that are most likely unavoidable so the child will just have to tough it out for a few days until they should disappear.
The shot given to children is slightly different from the one given to adults. It usually comes with a vaccine for diphtheria as well as one for pertussis. These three shots have similar side effects. An extra one that will most likely be present in children but not in adults is the lack of an appetite.
Treating the Side Effects
In most cases, the side effects do not require any form of treatment. The most common symptoms go away by themselves after a few days. The patient just needs to be tough and resilient. Some of the discomforts can be alleviated with the use of painkillers.
However, if you turn out to be the unlucky one in a hundred people that gets the more serious side effects then you should go check with a doctor as soon as possible to see what kind of treatment options you have.