I recently went in to the doctor and they informed me I was due for a tetanus shot. My lovely and well-meaning husband has told me over the years that tetanus is the one shot everyone should get. It’s a serious disease.”You don’t want to get that”, he says.
What is Tetanus Anyway?
The Mayo Clinic describes it this way:
Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that affects your nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of your jaw and neck muscles. Tetanus can interfere with your ability to breathe and can threaten your life. Tetanus is commonly known as “lockjaw.”
Source: Mayo Clinic
I got the vaccine due to the nagging voice of my husband in my head. After getting the shot, my arm immediately felt sore. It wasn’t until later in the day that it started to throb, preventing me from full use of my arm. Even typing seemed quite difficult. Not only that, but I was extremely tired and had a pounding headache. The next day was worse. It was extremely sore and I was unable to lift it, accompanied by the same headache, plus my entire neck and back on that side was aching and sore. By day 3, I am still feeling it, but it’s better.
The likelihood that my lazy ass would get tetanus is 1 in a million. WebMD says that tetanus isn’t just laying around for me to be exposed to.
Spores of the bacteria that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, are found in soil, dust and animal feces. When they enter a deep flesh wound, spores grow into bacteria that can produce a powerful toxin, tetanospasmin, which impairs the nerves that control your muscles (motor neurons). The toxin can cause muscle stiffness and spasms — the major signs of tetanus.
Exposure to Tetanus
I considered the fact that it’s possible that I live such a lazy, sheltered life that I would never get tetanus or even be exposed to it. I mean, do you see me outside handling my dogs terd? No. Do I play with rusty farm tools or go to backwoods doctors that use rusty, sharp medical instruments?
However, Mayo Clinic does list the cases in which people have had tetanus:
- Puncture wounds — including from splinters, body piercings, tattoos, injection drugs
- Gunshot wounds
- Compound fractures
- Surgical wounds
- Injection drug use
- Animal or insect bites
- Infected foot ulcers
- Dental infections
- Infected umbilical stumps in newborns born of inadequately immunized mothers
What is the saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thank you, Ben Franklin.
Not too long ago, one of these listed things happened to me. I got an ear piercing that quickly became infected. What would have happened if I didn’t have my tetanus shot? I did get sick from the antibiotic I had to take and didn’t really recover for 3 months, so I guess it was still awful, but it could’ve been a lot worse. With this list, I’m probably just being a whiner and should just toughen up and deal with the side effects because they are less awful than actually having tetanus. And honestly, better to be safe than sorry.
Still, there’s a part of me that thinks, “What a bunch of hooey”. This quote from the MN Department of Health is one reason for my skepticism:
Vaccine, theoretically, may prevent disease.
Theoretically? LOL. Well, that gives me peace of mind! And this quote, which states a very low death rate:
Generalized tetanus is the most common type (about 80%) of reported tetanus. The disease usually presents with a descending pattern. The first sign is trismus or lockjaw, followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty in swallowing, and rigidity of abdominal muscles. Other symptoms include elevated temperature, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and episodic rapid heart rate. Spasms may occur frequently and last for several minutes. Spasms continue for 3–4 weeks. Complete recovery may take months. Between 5-10% of cases are fatal.
5-10% is still awful, but it’s not as bad as my husband is making it out to be. 50 or fewer cases are reported in Minnesota, so 10% would be 5. 5 deaths a year. That’s at the high end. MDH says, “deaths are more likely to occur in persons 60 years of age and older”. I would be interested to see what caused these deaths because I bet none of them were 40 something mothers who lived in the suburbs.
Maybe it’s because some older people I know tend to not give a crap. I’ve seen them rip off mold from bread & eat the rest of it, eat sugar with bugs in it, and eat rotten tomatoes to save money. So, me thinks I’m pretty safe. Theoretically, the vaccine works which means it also might not work. So I’m apt to call “shenanigans” on this one.
But then again, I might just not want my husband to win an argument. So there’s always that. At any rate, I’m “good” for another 10 years. Theoretically.