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Tetanus can be a life-threatening infection

In this article:

  • What is tetanus?
  • Symptoms
  • Causes
  • Diagnosis
  • Effect on your life
  • Treatment
  • How Chemist Online can help
  • Advice & Support

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is an infection from which everyone should be protected through immunisation injections (as tetanus can be fatal).

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With tetanus, a bacterium called the Clostridium tetani affects the nervous system, attacking muscles and causing a range of symptoms to develop.

In the UK, babies are vaccinated against tetanus before they are four months old. More vaccinations are carried out throughout childhood – protecting the individual from tetanus for life.

If you are an adult and are unsure as to whether you are protected from tetanus, arrange an appointment with your GP. They will be able to arrange for you to have a booster injection if required.

Also, if you are intending to travel abroad, check to see if you need a tetanus booster injection prior to departure.


Symptoms of tetanus include:

  • A general feeling of tiredness
  • Jaw muscle spasms
  • Lockjaw
  • Arching of the back and neck
  • Muscle stiffness and pain around the neck and shoulder area
  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Digestion problems
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Blood pressure abnormalities
  • Heart palpations and/or irregular heart beat
  • Urination problems (i.e. an inability to pass urine, despite feeling the need to)
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The Clostridium tetani bacterium is found in soil and animal manure. If you cut or graze yourself and the bacteria enters the wound, it then contaminates it. The aforementioned symptoms of tetanus then develop. You can also get tetanus through sustaining a burn or even through an animal bite.

Note: If you think that you (or someone you know) may have become infected with the Clostridium tetani bacterium, do not delay, seek immediate medical attention, even if your wound or graze is only very small.


If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, do not wait for an appointment with your GP to become available – go to the A&E department of your local (or nearest) hospital immediately.

To medical staff, muscle spasms and stiffness are strong indicators of tetanus.

Effect on your life

Many people become infected with tetanus through body-piercings or tattoos where the equipment used has not been properly sterilised.


Tetanus infection is generally treated with antibiotics (once your wound has been thoroughly cleaned in hospital). Also, a medication called immunoglobulin will be given to you to fight bacterial toxins. Muscle spasms will be treated with muscle relaxant medicines.

How Chemist Online can help

  • Advice & Support
  • Information on immunisation
  • Website:

Health Protection Agency


This information and advice are not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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Tetanus can be a life-threatening infection. (2021, Mar 18). Retrieved August 19, 2022, from