Signs & Symptoms of Tetanus

The signs and symptoms of tetanus may start as headache, fever, restlessness and irritability, along with muscle spasms at the site of the infection. Though these symptoms may be common to other diseases, mild spasms of the jaw muscles and the spread of the spasms to the neck and chest muscles are a sure sign of tetanus and indicate the need for urgent medical attention. When the muscles required for regular breathing are affected, assistance may be required for breathing.  In new born children, tetanus can be the reason for seizures and the infant’s inability to suckle. Once a wound or cut is contaminated by the dangerous spores, symptoms may appear any time after two days, though normally they appear within two weeks.

In severe cases, the infection may result in coma or death if the muscles used for breathing spasm and oxygen supply to the brain and other vital organs get affected.  Muscle spasms can be so severe that they can result in fractures or dislocated joints too. When the facial muscles are affected initially, it can give rise to an expression of a sardonic smile, a condition that doctors call risus sardonicus. Sweating, fever, rigid abdominal muscles, elevated blood pressure and episodes of rapid heart rate are other symptoms noticed.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Amy Million, Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tetanus, Primary Care Update for OB/GYNS, Volume 4, Issue 3, May–June 1997, Pages 75-79, ISSN 1068-607X, 10.1016/S1068-607X(97)00006-1.
  2. Warfield M. Firor, The prevention and treatment of tetanus, The American Journal of Surgery, Volume 46, Issue 3, December 1939, Pages 450-453, ISSN 0002-9610, 10.1016/S0002-9610(39)90303-X.