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Rust Does Not Cause Tetanus and is Relatively Harmless in Small Quantities

It’s almost a rite of passage to have a conversation with your parents about keeping an eye out for rusty nails. They warn you about the dangers of rust, explain the see something, say something protocol for objects that appear to have the potential to pierce you, and foreshadow the harsh punishment for disobeying. But did you know that rust does not cause tetanus?

Rust does not cause tetanus and is relatively safe in small amounts. Tetanus is actually caused by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani, which can be found in the environment; soil, dust, and manure.

What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a dangerous bacterial infection that affects the nervous system and causes muscle tightness throughout the body. Because the infection frequently causes muscle contractions in the jaw and neck, it’s also known as lockjaw. It can, however, spread to other parts of the body.

Without treatment, a tetanus infection can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10 to 20% of tetanus infections are fatal.

Tetanus is a medical emergency that necessitates immediate hospitalization. Fortunately, tetanus can be avoided by using a vaccine. This vaccine, however, does not last forever. Tetanus booster shots are required every ten years to maintain immunity.

Tetanus is uncommon in the United States because the vaccine is widely available. It is more prevalent in countries that still need robust immunization programs. (Source: Healthline)

What Causes Tetanus?

Tetanus is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. Bacterial spores can be found in dust, dirt, and animal droppings. Spores are small reproductive bodies that certain organisms produce. They’re frequently resistant to harsh environmental conditions like high heat.

When these spores enter the bloodstream through a cut or deep wound, they can infect a person. The bacteria spores then spread to the central nervous system and produce tetanospasmin, a toxin. This toxin is a poison that prevents nerve signals from traveling from your spinal cord to your muscles. This may result in severe muscle spasms. 

Tetanus infection has been linked to the following:

  • Injuries caused by crushing
  • Injuries involving dead tissue
  • Burns
  • Wounds caused by piercings, tattoos, injection drug use, or injury
  • Dirt, feces, or saliva-contaminated wounds

(Source: Healthline

What are the Symptoms of Tetanus?

Tetanus affects the nerves that control your muscles, making swallowing difficult. You may also experience muscle spasms and stiffness, particularly in your jaw, abdomen, chest, back, and neck.

Other typical tetanus symptoms include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Elevated blood pressure

The incubation period ranges between being exposed to the bacteria and becoming ill between 3 and 21 days. Symptoms usually appear within 14 days of the initial infection. Infections that develop quickly after exposure are usually more severe and have a poor prognosis. (Source: Healthline)

How to Diagnose Tetanus?

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to look for tetanus symptoms like muscle stiffness and painful spasms.

Unlike many other diseases, Tetanus is not usually diagnosed through laboratory tests. However, your doctor may still order lab tests to rule out diseases that exhibit similar symptoms. Meningitis, a bacterial infection that affects the brain and spinal cord, and rabies, a viral infection that causes brain swelling, are two examples.

Your doctor will also use your immunization history to make a tetanus diagnosis. You’re more likely to get tetanus if you haven’t been immunized or are overdue for a booster shot. (Source: Healthline)

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