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Tetanus In Children


Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria are usually found in soil, dust, and the bowel movements of some animals and humans. The bacteria may enter your child's body through a skin wound. A mother can also pass the bacteria to her baby during a vaginal birth. The bacteria produce a toxin that damages nerves. This causes severe muscle spasms.


Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • Your child's heartbeat is very fast or not regular.
  • Your child has muscle spasms in his face.
  • Your child starts to feel muscle cramps or spasms near a wound.
  • Your child has a wound that is large or cannot be cleaned.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has an open wound or a puncture wound.
  • You do not know if your child's tetanus vaccines are current.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to stop or prevent seizures and muscle spasms. Your child may also need prescription pain medicine. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent tetanus:

  • Talk to your child's healthcare provider about the tetanus vaccine. The tetanus vaccine is given to children in several doses. A tetanus infection will not make your child immune from the tetanus toxin. If you are pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about the vaccine. It is given during the second half of pregnancy to prevent tetanus from passing to the baby during birth.
  • Clean every wound immediately. Apply pressure to your child's wound to stop any bleeding. Clean the wound with soap and water. Remove dirt or other objects from the wound. Change the bandage every day and if it gets wet or dirty.
  • Clean for your baby's cord stump as directed. Always wash your hands before you care for your baby's cord stump. Gently wash the stump and the skin around it with mild soap and warm water during every bath. Gently pat the stump dry after your baby's bath. If the stump gets dirty from urine or bowel movement, wash it off right away. Your baby's healthcare provider may suggest you use rubbing alcohol or water and a cotton swab to clean the stump. Gently wipe from the base to the top of the stump. Clean the stump with each diaper change.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.