Protect Yourself from Tetanus

by Andrea Laine, EMGV

Tetanus is a potentially deadly disease that affects the nervous system. Because tetanus bacteria are commonly found in soil and manure, it is especially important for gardeners to be aware of the disease.

Hands Holding Soil --- Image by © L. Clarke/Corbis

Many people associate tetanus infection with a puncture wound from a rusty nail, but the fact is the bacteria can enter a human body via the smallest cut, scrape or splinter. You can also get tetanus from an insect or animal bite.

Common first signs of tetanus are a headache and muscular stiffness in the jaw (lockjaw) followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty swallowing, hardening of abdominal muscles, spasms, sweating, and fever.

Ways gardeners can protect themselves:

  • Get vaccinated! Tetanus shots are routinely given to children, however immunity wears off.
  • Get a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years.
  • Wear protective clothing such as gardening gloves, footwear and eyewear. This is not a substitution for a booster shot.
  • Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person.

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, almost all reported cases of tetanus occur in persons who have either never been vaccinated, or those who completed a primary series as children but have not had a booster vaccination in the past 10 years.

If you have never had a tetanus/diphtheria vaccination or you are not sure about your immunization status, ask your healthcare provider. Take care of yourself before you take care of your garden.

Sources & Additional Information