How to Keep Safe in Your Garden - Tetanus
Tetanus in Your Garden?
It's not just rusty nails you have to worry about when out and about. Your ordinary garden soil may harbour the tetanus bacteria - a small wound could be enough to allow bacteria entry. Thankfully tetanus is rare and treatable if medication is prompt.
What is Tetanus?
Tetanus is a bacteria - Clostridium tetani. When this gets into the body, it's main targets are the nervous system and muscles. However, it's not the bacteria that cause the damage, but the neurotoxin they produce. A neurotoxin is basically a poison that targets nerves, to the point they can't function properly. This leads to the characteristic muscle stiffness and spasms of tetanus.
The bacteria live in soil and lie dormant in house dust. They can enter the body through any kind of wound. Even a small prick from a thorny plant such as a rose is big enough to allow tetanus to get in. Tetanus can take up to 21 days for symptoms to develop.
According to NHS (National Health Service - UK), most cases of tetanus treated are people aged over 65 who have not been immunised - immunisation in the UK only began routinely in 1961.
There are a also various categories of tetanus:
For further explanations on the above, see the quick reference table below.
What are the causes of tetanus?
There are several ways that tetanus can infect a person. The bacteria normally, as said previously, enters the body through an open wound that has come into contact with:
- soil containing the bacteria
- a dirty knife or nail
- contaminated house dust
- animal faeces or occasionally human faeces
- animals can sometimes transmit tetanus when they bite
- neonatal tetanus is caused by a mother who has an infected/dirty umbilical wound
- if you take medications or illegal drugs by using a dirty needle that has tetanus bacteria present
However, many cases of tetanus arise from simple scratches or cuts that have not been cleaned properly, in areas where the tetanus bacteria were present.
Signs & symptoms of tetanus
Signs & Symptoms
With this form of tetanus only the muscles near to the wound are affected but the spasms can still be painful.
This is a rare from and is not fatal.
Fever, sweating, jaw muscle spasms and stiffness - this is where the other name for the disease 'lockjaw' comes from. Other muscles of the body could also be affected. In addition, the spasms can cause difficulty with swallowing, breathing and your digestion.
This form of tetanus can be fatal.
This often affects people who have a head injury or children with ear infections. If tetanus is present it can cause paralysis rather than muscle spasms.
This is a very rare form but is fatal.
The baby doesn't feed well, is very stiff and will have muscle spasms. If tetanus is contracted it shows up within 1 week after the baby is born.
This form of tetanus is fatal unless treated quickly.
Test your knowledge of tetanus
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Keep safe in your garden - how to protect against tetanus
Taking preventative action will not only ensure that you are safe from this disease, but will give you peace of mind to enjoy your garden. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Infection - USA) states that 33% of tetanus infections are caught while in the garden.
The recommended preventative measures are - especially if you're gardening:
- Ensure that you've received the full immunisation programme. Most vaccination regimes start off in childhood with further jabs given at specific intervals during childhood. However, if you or your child has any deep wounds or injury, then ask for medical advice regarding tetanus.
- Cover any wounds you have - even small scratches - before you go out to the garden.
- It's always a good idea to wear protective gloves when working around the garden.
- Wearing good footwear will also give you protection against cuts and puncture wounds.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after you've finished in the garden.
- If you get a scratch or other kind of wound, then wash it thoroughly with water and/or an antiseptic solution. Cover the wound.
Your garden is there for you to take pleasure in - whether it's working, relaxing or playing. Adopting simple precautions while there, will ensure you continue to have trouble free enjoyment for many years to come.