So What About Tetanus?


Published:

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

In discussions about the pros and cons of certain vaccines, inevitably the question comes up… “Well, surely you don’t have any problem with the tetanus vaccine?” Usually, the question is followed up with a second question… “I mean, if you stepped on a nail, you’d definitely want to get a tetanus shot, right?”

For the purposes of this article, let’s put aside the first question and focus on the second one, because it is the second question that is the important one. Imagine that your child is playing barefoot outside and accidentally gets cut by stepping on something sharp, like a nail protruding from an old piece of wood. What is your immediate fear? That the wound will become infected with tetanus bacteria (Clostridium tetani) and come down with lockjaw.1

This is a reasonable concern, given that tetanus (which is not contagious) is caused by a bacterium in soil, manure and the digestive tracts of animals and humans. The bacteria spores can enter the body through a puncture wound as small as a pin prick and cause lockjaw. Globally, thousands of deaths in Africa and other developing countries are caused by tetanus, many of them newborns who die after umbilical cords are cut using instruments contaminated with tetanus spores.2

The incubation period for tetanus bacteria is relatively short. Symptoms for lockjaw can appear between three days to three weeks. They include “muscular stiffness of the jaw and neck, headache, irritability, fever, and chills.”3 According to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC):

As the disease progresses, the body becomes rigid and locked in spasm with head drawn back, and legs and feet extended. The jaw becomes unable to open with difficulty in swallowing and convulsions may also occur.3

There are still cases of tetanus in the U.S., including deaths, although they are rare. In 2009, there were a total of 19 cases in the United States and two deaths were reported.2,4

It sounds scary but less so if you understand this one key fact: Tetanus bacteria, which secrete toxins (tetanolysin and tetanospasmin5) that can cause lockjaw, cannot survive in the presence of oxygen.3 Deep puncture wounds that do not bleed are an ideal place for tetanus bacteria to enter the body and be protected by tissue and skin from direct exposure to oxygen in the air, which serves as a “perfect environment for tetanus bacteria to multiply and cause infection.”3

Wounds to the skin that bleed a lot deny tetanus bacteria the kind of environment it requires to live and grow. Wounds that bleed and are cleaned and disinfected properly, rather than sealed in some way, are far less likely to get infected. The important point to remember is that tetanus bacteria are anaerobic, which means that they can only live in the “absence of air.” So in order to deny the tetanus bacteria what they need to live, the wound should remain exposed to oxygen as long as possible.

In a lecture given in Sweden in 2014, Suzanne Humphries, MD explained:

If you properly treat the wound and air can get to it and no abscess forms and you continue to disinfect, you will not develop tetanus. So it’s very key to for a wound to heal from inside out. You don’t want a wound to start to seal over on the outside before the inside is healed properly because anything that’s trapped under the skin will fester, there won’t be enough air and this susceptibility can happen.6

Dr. Humphries went on to list her recommendations for proper wound care, noting that the first step is to allow the wound to bleed (not hemorrhage). “The first thing people want to do when there’s a wound is to stop the bleeding, but unless you have severed an artery, you don’t stop the bleeding,” she stressed.

I cut my thumb a few weeks ago, and I stood over the sink and just let it bleed for about a minute because you want to flush from inside to outside. You want your immune cells to be going through, and it’s a way to cleanse the wound. So you want to bleed first.7

The point is that proper wound care is central to avoiding any type of bacteria from causing harm.

When it comes to getting a tetanus shot in the emergency room after a skin wound, particularly a wound that is highly unlikely to be contaminated with tetanus spores that live in soil, manure and the digestive tracts of animals and humans, there are a lot of factors to consider. It takes days after getting a tetanus containing vaccine for antibody levels against the tetanus bacteria toxins to rise in the blood, and by then symptoms of tetanus infection may have already begun to appear.8

There are also serious adverse effects associated with tetanus containing vaccines (DT, Td, DTaP, Tdap), including “redness, swelling and pain at the injection site; headache; fatigue, sore and swollen joints; muscle weakness; fever; chills; nausea; shock; neuropathy; convulsions; encephalopathy; paralysis; Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS); death.”3

(Note that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends one dose of the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) for protection against tetanus infection. The CDC recommends that any subsequent tetanus shots should be given as Td (tetanus and diphtheria). It states that the “minimal interval after a previous dose of any tetanus-containing vaccine” is five years and the “recommended interval” is 10 years.9)

According to Russell Blaylock, MD, “The tetanus vaccine has one of the highest complication rates of any vaccine—equal to that of the hepatitis B and Gardasil vaccines. The evidence suggests that such vaccines among older persons can increase one’s risk of a number of neurological disorders.”10

It’s also worth noting that in the U.S. the tetanus vaccine is only available in combination with other vaccines, so if you want only tetanus vaccine you will not be able to get it. The four choices are DT (diphtheria and tetanus), DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), Td, and Tdap.11

According to CDC, what is recommended for people with skin wounds highly likely to be associated tetanus bacteria is tetanus immune globulin (TIG) antitoxin, which helps “remove unbound tetanus toxin,” although it is not effective in removing toxin “bound to nerve endings.”12

TIG contains vaccine acquired tetanus bacteria antibodies from donated human blood.13

The adverse effects of TIG appear to be typically less severe than tetanus vaccine and include difficulty in breathing or swallowing; hives; itching (especially of soles or palms); reddening of skin (especially around ears); swelling of eyes, face, or inside of nose; unusual tiredness or weakness (sudden and severe).14

In short, the question of what to do if you step on a nail and, especially if a wound to the skin bleeds and is not associated with soil, animal or human waste products, isn’t a simple black or white question. It’s not just vaccinate or do nothing.

There are multiple factors to consider, and the option you choose will depend on the type of skin injury, your level of knowledge regarding the tetanus bacteria, the importance of proper wound care, the benefits and risks of tetanus vaccine in light of a personal and family medical history, and other factors that deserve thoughtful consideration.

This article was republished from The Vaccine Reaction.

See also:
Flu Vaccine Effectiveness In Question
Vaccine Studies Debunked

References:
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tetanus. CDC.gov.
2 Kyu HH, Mumford JE et al. Mortality from tetanus between 1990 and 2015: findings from the global burden of disease study: 2015. BMC Public Health 2017; 17:178.
3 National Vaccine Information Center. Tetanus Disease and Vaccine. NVIC.org.
4 CDC. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. CDC.gov.
5 CDC. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. CDC.gov.
6 Humphries S. Dr. Humphries on tetanus, immunity and epigenetics. YouTube.com (published Oct. 28, 2014).
7 Humphries S. Tetanus, prevention, wound care and vitamin C. YouTube.com (published Oct. 29, 2014).
8 Gaublomme K. Tetanus Toxoid Vaccination: An Overview. International Medical Council on Vaccination September 1996.
9 CDC. Recommended and Minimum Ages and Intervals Between Doses of Routinely Recommended Vaccines. CDC.gov.
10 Blaylock R. Should I Get a Tetanus Shot? Newsmax Sept. 16, 2013.
11 CDC. Tetanus Vaccination. CDC.gov.
12 CDC. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. CDC.gov.
13 Health Link British Columbia. Tetanus Immune Globulin. HealthLinkBC.ca.
14 PubMed Health. Tetanus Immune Globulin (Intramuscular route). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 11, 2017

The Moon is in Libra, where she highlights the need and benefits of good working relationships. It’s an appropriate day to go over the ground rules of cooperative partnerships. Address inconsistencies or dynamics that seem unfair but remember…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2017

Free admission, 10%-20% discounts! Quality crystals, minerals and jewelry! We have an amazing display of merchandise for your viewing pleasure and purchase. We constantly add new items to our...

Where:
Cape Cod Center for Whole Health
116 State Road
Sagamore Beach, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Down to Earth Crystals and Minerals
Telephone: 508-680-6195
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Diane Lewis, psychic medium, for this very special holiday presentation. Be a part of this exciting evening as Diane connects to spirit, bridging the gap and gently bringing forth messages...

Cost: $40 per person

Where:
Hillcrest Country Club
325 Pleasant Street
Leicester, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Hillcrest Country Club
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Beginning, Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 Clarity. Knowledge. Personal transformation. No matter what you’re looking to find more of, Kabbalah 1 is the first step in your lifelong journey of...

Cost: 8 Weeks, $49.95

Where:
WeWork
31 St. James Ave
Boston, MA  02116
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Telephone: 1.800.522.2252
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Do you find it a challenge to quiet your mind? In Raja Yoga the mind is described as the generator of thought that resides within the soul. It is the one thing we can control in life. We simply...

Cost: Free

Where:
Inner Space Meditation Center & Gallery
1110 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Telephone: 617-547-1110
Website »

More information

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season drain you! Come join us for a holiday healing meditation and Reiki session with Judy and Geri. This session will start off with...

Cost: $25

Where:
Holistic Wellness Center
18 North Meadows Road, Unit 12B
Medfield, MA   02052
View map »


Telephone: 508-359-7400
Website »

More information

Please join us at our monthly meetings, second Wednesday each month in Northboro, MA. Stay inspired and create collaborative professional relationships. A welcoming community working for the...

Where:
First Parish Unitarian Church Hall
40 Church Street
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come join Mary Budrose on October 17, November 14, December 14, from 7-8pm to learn more about the The Budrose Center For Spiritual Growth healing program and experience a chakra balancing...

Where:
Budrose Center for Spiritual Growth (Blossom Healings)
54 Main Street
Topsfield, MA  01983
View map »


Telephone: 978-561-1687
Contact Name: Mary Budrose
Website »

More information

Join us in the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki practitioners and others interested in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki — revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher) This one-day class covers the basic principles of...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

2 Saturday 10:30AM classes to practice IPT Yoga at Sohum in Westborough, MA Want to practice yoga to relieve pain on the bottom of the foot? Integrated Positional Technique (IPT) for...

Cost: $30 per class prereg; $55 for both; $35 each at the door

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street
Suite 108b (next to hair salon)
Westborough, MA, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: PatLebauYoga
Telephone: 508-393-5581
Contact Name: Pat Lebau
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags