What is Tetanus?

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is caused by bacteria (called Clostridium tetani) that are found very commonly in the environment, particularly in soil and in the guts of animals.  Tetanus bacteria can enter the body through any wound or cut.  If the wound is very dirty or deep, the risk of tetanus increases. However, people have caught tetanus from wounds as small as a prick from a rose thorn. 


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of tetanus include difficulty chewing and swallowing food, muscle  weakness and painful muscle spasms.  The disease can lead to breathing difficulties, as well as other serious complications. Tetanus is a very serious disease and about 1 in 10 people who get tetanus will die from it. Recovery from tetanus may take months.



Vaccination against tetanus is very effective. Tetanus vaccination is one of the routine childhood immunisations.  It is given at ages six weeks, three months and five months, with boosters at four years and eleven years of age. 

Adult boosters are given at 45 and 65 years of age.

A booster vaccination is also given to any person with a clean wound if they have not had a tetanus vaccination within the previous ten years, or within the previous five years if the wound is considered to be tetanus prone (such as a dirty or deep wound or animal bite).


What if my child has missed out on the tetanus vaccination?

If a child has missed out on this vaccine, it is likely that they have missed out on some or all of the other components of the vaccine (such as diphtheria and whooping cough).  Talk to your family doctor about immunisation.  It is never too late for you or your family to catch up.