Tetanus FAQs – Can We Get it From Rusty Nails?


Tetanus is a fatal disease of humans that is caused by a toxin which is produced by a bacteria known as Clostridium tetani. The condition is characterized by the contraction of skeletal muscles particularly the masseter muscles causing lockjaw.

Where can Clostridium tetani be found?

The causative agent of Tetanus can be found in soil especially in heavily manured soils and in the intestinal tracts and feces of animals such as horses, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, rats, guinea pigs, and chickens

The disease occurs worldwide but the causative agent is common in tropical and moist region where there is plenty of organic matter in soil.

How can I be infected with Tetanus?

These bacteria enter open wounds or laceration and there they produce generate spores which in turn produce a potent neurotoxin (also known as tetanus toxin). The neurotoxin is responsible for the symptoms of this disease.

Can I get Tetanus from rusty nails?

Such an association is misleading. Although objects that rust harbor anaerobic bacteria (such as the Clostridium tetani bacterium) which can cause the disease, the rust itself does not cause tetanus. The association probably came from the notification that the rust, which is a perfect habitat for anaerobic bacteria, and the nail can puncture the skin and can deliver the spores easily.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tetanus?

Generalized tetanus consistants of sever painful spasms and rigidity of the voluntary musles. The prime characteristic symptom of tetanus which is lockjaw involves spasms of the masseter muscle.

As the disease progresses, it is characterized by severity and violent spasms of the trunk and limb muscles. Opisthotonos is the characteristic extreme arching of the back and risus sardonicus or sarcastic grin (right photo) are both symptoms of the disease. Spasms of the pharyngeal muscles cause difficulty in swallowing.

Death usually results from interference with the mechanisms of respiration or the paralysis of the respiratory muscles. In other words, a person suffering from this disease will have difficulty of breathing.

How can Tetanus be prevented?

Tetanus can be prevented by tetanus toxoid for prophylactic immunization. Proper washing of wounds with antibiotic or antiseptic wash is advisable as well.