Tetanus and a Rusty Nail

Can Stepping on a Rusty Nail Give You Tetanus?  We grow up hearing that, somehow a wound caused by a rusty nail can lead to tetanus (a.k.a, "lockjaw") But is it true?

The bacteria that cause tetanus are common and widespread, and it is the nature of the wound, rather than the presence or absence of rust or iron that is connected with tetanus. The bacterium that causes tetanus is Clostridia bacteria, in the family of C. tetani.  It can be found in soil, dust, feces and on even on the surface of the skin. The bacteria only reproduces in the absence of oxygen, so any deep wound can become a breeding ground.

Obviously, a  rusty nail can cause a deep wound. So can many other objects from gardening tools, sewing needles, animal bites, splinters workshop tools, etc.  Any object, whether it is rusty or not, that punctures or damages the skin, can lead to tetanus Also, injuries that create dead skin, like burns and frostbite, can also lead to a tetanus infection.

The symptoms can be severe. Once the bacteria get underneath the skin, they produce toxins that attack the central nervous system, causing spasms and muscle rigidity all over the body, most frequently in the face. Approximately 25% of the estimated 50 to 100 Americans who contract the tetanus disease each year will die from it.

What can you do?  First get the vaccine and remember to get a booster every 10 years (or as your doctor recommends) . While the tetanus vaccine is normally given to children, its protection wears off after 10 years! Many people forget to get boosters.

Second, wash deep wounds thoroughly an antiseptic / antibiotic wash. 

And see a doctor if the wound does not heal promptly and cleanly!