Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

A to Z: Tetanus

May also be called: Lockjaw

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a serious but preventable disease that affects the body's muscles and nerves. Most cases happen when a skin wound is contaminated by a type of bacteria (Clostridium tetani) often found in soil.

More to Know

Once the bacteria are in the body, they produce a neurotoxin (a protein that acts as a poison to the nervous system) that causes muscle spasms. The toxin can travel throughout the body via the bloodstream and lymph system.

As it circulates more widely, the toxin interferes with the normal activity of nerves throughout the body, leading to generalized muscle spasms. Spasms can be so forceful that they tear muscles or even cause spine fractures. Without treatment, tetanus can be fatal.

Tetanus is not contagious — you can't catch it from someone who has it.

Keep in Mind

The best way to prevent tetanus is to be immunized against it. Also helpful is protecting feet against deep or dirty wounds (such as from stepping on a nail) by wearing thick-soled shoes or sandals instead of going barefoot, especially when outdoors.

All wounds should be kept clean. Apply an over-the-counter antibacterial or antiseptic treatment to help prevent bacteria from growing, change the dressing once a day, and get a tetanus shot or booster if needed. Deep puncture wounds, especially on the bottom of a foot, must be seen by a doctor because these are more likely to become infected without proper treatment.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

What next?

By using this site, you consent to our use of cookies. To learn more, read our privacy policy.

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.