Since there's no cure for tetanus, treatment consists of wound care, medications to ease symptoms and supportive care.
Cleaning the wound is essential to preventing growth of tetanus spores. This involves removing dirt, foreign objects and dead tissue from the wound.
- Antitoxin. Your doctor may give you a tetanus antitoxin, such as tetanus immune globulin. However, the antitoxin can neutralize only toxin that hasn't yet bonded to nerve tissue.
- Antibiotics. Your doctor may also give you antibiotics, either orally or by injection, to fight tetanus bacteria.
- Vaccine. Having tetanus once doesn't make you immune to the bacteria afterward. So you'll need to receive a tetanus vaccine in order to prevent future tetanus infection.
- Sedatives. Doctors generally use powerful sedatives to control muscle spasms.
- Other drugs. Other medications, such as magnesium sulfate and certain beta blockers, may be used to help regulate involuntary muscle activity, such as your heartbeat and breathing. Morphine may be used for this purpose as well as sedation.
Tetanus infection often requires a long period of treatment in an intensive care setting. Since sedatives may result in shallow breathing, you may need to be supported temporarily by a ventilator.
April 24, 2013
- Tetanus: Questions and answers. Immunization Action Coalition. http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4220.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Roush SW, et al. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 4th ed. Atlanta, Ga.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt16-tetanus.html. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Tetanus. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec14/ch178/ch178i.html. Accessed Jan. 13, 2013.
- Long SS, et al. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9&isbn=978-1-4377-2702-9&uniqId=399011628-4#4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9. Accessed Jan. 24, 2013.
- Prevention and management of wound infection. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/tools/Prevention%20and%20management%20of%20wound%20infection.pdf. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis vaccines: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-dtap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Tetanus, diphtheria (Td) or tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-td-tdap.pdf. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.