Tetanus is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which can ‘sleep’ in soil, dirt or animal poo. This bacteria can get into your system through a dirty cut or scrape, an animal bite or a burn.
A tetanus infection can lead to severe muscle pain and spasms all over the body. It can also lead to ‘lockjaw’, which is when you can’t open your mouth. In some cases, tetanus can cause death.
The treatment for tetanus involves antibiotics.
If your child is fully immunised, you don’t need to worry about tetanus. In Australia, it’s recommended that your child get the tetanus vaccine at two, four and six months, followed by tetanus boosters at four years and in Year 10 of high school.
If your child isn’t immunised or you’re concerned that your child’s immunisation might not be up to date (if your child hasn’t received a tetanus dose within the last five years), you should get medical help immediately if your child is bitten by an animal or gets a cut or scrape from anything dirty. If your child has a clean, minor wound, and has had a tetanus booster between 5 and 10 years ago, the doctor might not think your child needs a tetanus booster.
It’s always important to clean a wound and remove any foreign material from it. If you need help with this, see a doctor or nurse.