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So What About Tetanus?

two sets of bare feet

So the key is to deny tetanus bacteria the kind of environment it requires to live and grow. Tetanus bacteria cannot survive in the presence of oxygen.

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.


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.

23 Responses to So What About Tetanus?

  1. Nicole Reply

    August 2, 2017 at 10:46 am

    This article would benefit from a discussion of treatment of tetanus with vitamin C. The success of vitamin C in treating tetanus greatly reduced any fear of tetanus I still had after choosing to forgo prophylaxis for it.

  2. Seeker2 Reply

    July 29, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I just came across this research.

    “Immunization does not interfere with uptake and transport by motor neurons of the binding fragment of tetanus toxin.”
    (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16557581)

    It concluded that “…All vaccinated animals had protective levels of antitetanus antibodies as measured by ELISA. Uptake of TTC by nerve terminals from an intramuscular depot is an avid and rapid process and is not blocked by vaccination associated with protection from tetanus toxin.”

  3. Seeker2 Reply

    July 26, 2017 at 12:32 am

    “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.”

    My husband is a perfect example of this. He is the second person in Australia to have survived a tetanus infection.

    At 14 years old (1960) my husband was helping his father fix a pole which had rotted at ground level. While supporting the pole on the edge of the hole it slipped, impaling his foot between the big toe and the next. After releasing my husband’s badly wounded foot, his father rushed him to the nearest hospital emergency department. Even though my husband was up-to-date with his tetanus vaccinations they decided to give him a booster “just to make sure”, rather than following best practice in cases like his and giving him the available TIG shot. His foot wound was stitched closed without having been properly cleaned of contaminants.

    Less than a week later, on the Friday afternoon, my husband became aware of tightness in his jaw. His foot wound had no indication of infection but he knew about lockjaw and tetanus. Fortunately, his father came home from work early that day. When my husband told him of the tightness in his jaw and that he thought he had tetanus, my father-in-law rushed him to the hospital. The emergency staff called for an ambulance to take him to the children’s hospital for treatment. He remembers, during the ambulance ride, accepting that he was going to die and feeling sad that he’d never see his mother again. His last memory before slipping into a coma was that it was difficult to breathe and of two fingers, holding huge pills, heading for his mouth as the overhead lights flashed by as his gurney was rushed down the hospital corridor. When he lost consciousness, he stopped breathing. The emergency tracheotomy they performed allowed them to manually keep him breathing.

    Three weeks later, my husband woke from the coma to discover that he was in an iron lung. He remembers the slow process of having to relearn how to walk, swallow and breathe on his own. The doctors said that had he not been so physically fit – he spent all his free time outdoors and had won a sit-up competition (110 sit-ups in a row) the week before he became ill – it was unlikely he could have survived the infection. Likewise, if his father had not come home early or he’d arrived at the hospital five minutes later or the ambulance had been delayed, my husband would not have survived and become just another tetanus statistic.

    When our daughter was 10 years old, she smashed her bottom lip on a bar, splitting it with her top teeth. We took her to the doctor in case she needed stitches. Our family doctor was away so we had to see a different doctor at the practice. Despite our daughter’s own teeth having caused the profusely bleeding wound and no dirt or faeces were involved, the first thing the doctor asked was if her tetanus vaccinations were up to date. When we said “No” (we stopped vaccinating her when she was 4 years old after an adverse reaction), the doctor said she’d go get the needle. She was stunned when we said “No thank you. Our daughter doesn’t need to be vaccinated”. Immediately she became aggressive, saying “Have you ever seen anyone who’s contracted tetanus? It is a horrifying disease.” I pointed to my husband and said “He’s had tetanus and survived”. It turned out that she, like most practicing doctors, had never actually witnessed a tetanus infection. She was fascinated by my husband’s experience. After checking that he, too, did not want our daughter to be given a tetanus vaccine, she said that we “were the first parents she’d ever met who were obviously well informed and who refused to vaccinate”.

  4. Phil Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    “Doctors can diagnose tetanus by examining the patient and looking for certain signs and symptoms. There are no hospital lab tests that can confirm tetanus.”

    https://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/about/diagnosis-treatment.html

    • P.Q. Reply

      July 27, 2017 at 1:17 am

      Thank you for sharing your stories! Among many interesting and inspiring points, I am astounded that a tetanus shot was suggested given your daughter’s circumstance!

  5. LARRY FOX Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    For 23 years I worked In a steel mill, and every 6 months we had to have a Tetanus shot and if you went in health center for any reason during the 6 month period you most likely would get another tetanus if pasted 21 days since the last shot. I had more than 60 of those shots. After I left from there I got hurt one day, 3 broken ribs, went to see a local doctor for rays and to get taped up he asked when I had a tetanus shot I said 12 years, he said that he had to give me one [$60], I said no he called the police, I told them to show me where I was forced to get a shot. I didn’t get the shot. I was back to that clinic a few more times, seen other doctors there but was never seen by him, he refused to see me. I have not had another tetanus now in over 33 years, no lockjaw, have been cut several time, hands, feet, legs and arms, but my days of sawing and nailing are over with now, can only tell other young people why it don’t fit or go together right now they should had talked to m first.

  6. Mark G Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Colloidal silver both internally (At 10 ppm) and externally is highly effective at treating tetanus.

  7. Michael RN Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    It’s my understanding that tetanus bacteria is found in the dirt. Found primarily in dirt saturated by manure of horses. In ages past people walked on dirt roads that horses also used. So if you stepped on a horseshoe nail it had a high probability of hosting tetanus bacteria. Horses are few and far between these days. The risk is rare to get tetanus.

  8. Debra Prisk Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Go on youtube this is one of the BEST stories about Tetanus and explanation on why vaccines are so bad….Must watch..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQKglol4OLE

  9. Stephen Sanborn Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 10:18 am

    So why is this being injected into people? I guess it’s a big money maker !!

  10. LP Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Brilliant!
    Educate, make informed choices, able to choose for yourself!

  11. Evan Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I read somewhere that tetanus issues during the Civil War were quite rare (maybe 100 deaths or so?) . And that involved endless wounds with horse dung no doubt commonly around and archaic emergency medicine. Yet another vaccine that defies what the real history shows us. This mythology that people were dropping like flies before vaccines saved us. None of it holds up under scrutiny. Sure, there are plagues now and again, but they always burn themselves out. Under no circumstances has some pathogen always been raging through the population leaving scores dead. It just doesn’t happen. Most adults vaccines have long since worn off, yet where are the plagues? The only plague I see is chronic disease and obesity. Yet be afraid, so afraid, of some pathogens! No more. I opt out that mindset entirely.

    • chris Reply

      August 2, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Very good point! Any in depth look at vaccine theory and practice shows that the whole deal is more akin to a religion than a scientific procedure. Objective examination of the subject leads me to the conclusion that widespread epidemics develop when populations are greatly stressed by factors such as war, famine or natural disasters that lead to terrible hygiene and malnutrition. This idea that Indians were killed off by white people’s diseases sounds ridiculous. Yeah, diseases after being obliterated by war.

  12. Beth Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Is conventional medicine (vaccines & antidotes) ignoring our bodies need for vitamin C to combat disease?

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6466264

    Effect of ascorbic acid in the treatment of tetanus.

    Jahan K, Ahmad K, Ali MA.
    Abstract
    The effect of daily intravenous administration of 1000 mg ascorbic acid (AA) in tetanus patients aged 1-30 years was studied. In the age group of 1-12 years, 31 patients were treated with AA as additional to antitetanus serum, sedatives and antibiotics. It was found that none of the patients died who received AA along with the conventional antitetanus therapy. On the other hand, 74.2 per cent of the tetanus patients who received the conventional antitetanus therapy without AA (control group) were succumbed to the infection. In the other age group of 13-30 years, there were 27 and 38 patients in the treatment and control groups respectively. The mortality in the AA and control groups were 37 percent and 67.8 percent respectively. These results suggest that AA might play an important role in reducing the mortality of tetanus. This was supported by the fact that AA was found to mitigate the toxic effects of strychnine producing tetanus like condition in young chicks in the present study.

  13. Robert Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 7:22 am

    My daughter had convulsion a few days later with tetanus only shot.
    I’m wondering if it may of effected her personality now.

    • Bouncedancer Reply

      July 25, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      I thought you could not get the tetanus-only shot in the US anymore. I learned that the tetanus-only shot is higher in mercury than the tetanus-diphtheria combo — she may need chelation therapy. BTW, the tetanus vaccine may be conferring lifetime immunity (if so, it’s the only vaccine to do that that I know of); even the CDC is on record as having said that the vaccine gives at least 20 to 30 years’ immunity.

  14. Ken Conrad Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Immunity is much more then mere exposure to a microbe with resulting resistance.
    It’s an all-encompassing complex process that includes proper nutrition, environmental stress, and limiting ones exposure to invasive chemicals, drugs and injected biological substances, all of which are found in vaccines.

    For those who consider microbes such as tetanus as the enemy; a so-called enemy that clearly, we fail to completely comprehend and yet despite that lack of comprehension, an enemy that must be defeated, then let me paraphrase John Steinbeck, All war is a “symptom” of man’s insecurity and “failure as a thinking animal”.

    I lived on a dairy and beef farm all of my life and raised nine children on that same farm. Seven of the nine children were not vaccinated yet they, along with their two older siblings who were all ran around in bare feet in the dirt and cow manure and suffered various cuts and puncture wounds etc., none of them ever developed tetanus. Note… they drank plenty of raw milk.

  15. Marcia Reply

    July 25, 2017 at 6:20 am

    Three weeks ago a heavy metal table slipped out of the tailgate of my car and gouged my lower leg requiring plastic surgery. In the ER I was asked no less than 6 times if I had a recent tetanus shot. I’m a vaccine skeptic so I was prepared to lie and say “yes” even though it’s been many years since I had the shot. From the copious amount of bleeding I knew I wasn’t in danger.

    • Seeker2 Reply

      July 26, 2017 at 6:25 am

      When I cannot be bothered arguing with health professionals about my vaccination status I lie by omission. If asked if I’ve had the ‘flu shot or am up to date with, say, the tetanus vaccination I reply that “I’ve listened to my doctor and am completely up to date”. While true, it is deliberately misleading. I DO listen when my doctor recommends I get vaccinated. I omit mentioning that I refuse to follow his vaccination recommendations. It is also absolutely true that I am in total compliance with MY INDIVIDUALISED Vaccination Schedule of No More Vaccinations, EVER. I know, but couldn’t care less, that healthcare professionals assume I mean that I am fully vaccinated in accordance with the current recommendations.

      For me, the bottom line is My Body, My Choice.

  16. Lisa Reply

    July 24, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    Anotjer point I’d like to make is that you’d see some pretty rampant rates of active tetanus if it really was a danger, since the booster is said not to last and the rates of compliance are low. Where is all of that lockjaw? I sure have seen a lot of really deep splinters in my life…

    Another RN

  17. Caroline Reply

    July 24, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    It was some years since I had a tetanus shot and since I do work in situations that could cause a foot puncture, I decided to update. When I went to Kaiser they wanted Tdap, and I said no way, Jose. I just want the tetanus and nothing more of chemicals in my body. My doctor finally got it set up for me to just get the tetanus shot alone. Unfortunately with some 70 or so vaccinations for little ones, this is plain stupid and exposes children to so many illnesses that we never heard of nor had when I was growing up. This is murder plain and simple, and no way will I ever get a flu shot again. As a health consultant, I had it once so I could talk to patients why not to get it, plus I have read that continual flu shots can lead to dementia. I always think of my father having the first “swine flu shot” and dead in 3 days. Good example of why no one should be forced to input dangerous chemicals in their body!

  18. redpill1 Reply

    July 19, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    “How can the Tetanus vaccine induce immunity, when contracting the disease naturally does not give immunity?”–NVIC

    “A tetanus vaccination cannot possibly protect from the disease since the human organism cannot build up any immunity after contracting the disease (as is the same after HIB, diphtheria or TB). So, if nature hasn’t planned the immunity, how does the vaccine work? Furthermore, the tetanus vaccination (as is the case with the diphtheria vaccine) is a so-called toxoid vaccine. The killed poison of the tetanus bacilli is injected into the body and meant to protect us. But the human body cannot build up immunity against poisons31. How can the vaccine protect us then? The official statistics of the various countries show us that the vaccine does not protect us. The Robert Koch Institute in Germany admits that 2/3 people who contract tetanus have been fully vaccinated (32). The rate in Switzerland was 50% fully vaccinated and still contracted the disease.”—Anita Petek-Dimmer

    Did you know there is NO diagnostic test for tetanus? So how do we know a person actually has tetanus. Symptoms of tetanus are similar to symptoms of some other toxic poisonings. We have no test to prove the person has tetanus. And good wound care is far and away your best treatment for dirty injuries. And the risk for tetanus is not the same in every area of the country. And tetanus vaccine is one vaccine that I get many many emails on from people telling me of damage to themselves or their children that doesn’t go away – tetanus like symptoms. The vaccine is so extremely toxic its been diluted and diluted………and still causing problems in some. And does it even work? Questionable.–Sheri Nakken RN

    So why is this being injected into people?

    • Donna Reply

      July 25, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Hello,
      I would like to think that people parents/grandparents just don’t know the truth about tetanus. If more people knew the truth, they wouldn’t opt for a tetanus shot which includes all that other stuff. as a kid spending summers on the farm,I cut my foot regularly and recall making sure I was up to date with tetanus BUT it did not have all the other stuff in it. YUK.

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