Is Neonatal Tetanus A Fatal Disease?

Is Neonatal Tetanus A Fatal Disease

What Is Neonatal Tetanus And How It Can Be Dangerous To A Newborn Child’s Health?

Often considered a fatal disease, neonatal tetanus is a severe infectious disease. It affects a newborn child when a toxin of Clostridium tetani invades the umbilical area. If your newborn baby can’t cry, suck, he develops spasms and looks rigid, neonatal tetanus is responsible.

This disease usually occurs when the neonate is 4-7 days old. The risks of neonatal tetanus have reduced due to better medical facilities around the world. Hospitals now practice better delivery techniques to have safer delivery.  

Suppose this disease haunts a newborn baby, doctors got neutralizing toxins, antispasmodic, nutritional care, and antibiotics to cure it. It is a preventable health condition. Active and passive immunization plays a crucial role in preventing it.

What Are The Causes Of Neonatal Tetanus?

Babies receive their food through the umbilical cord when they are in the mother’s womb. This umbilical cord is cut after delivery. Neonatal tetanus occurs when the healthcare provider does not use disinfected hands or scissors to cut the umbilical cord.

The following things can be responsible for neonatal tetanus:

  • Using unsterilized scissors cut the umbilical cord
  • Legating the umbilical cord with disinfected string
  • The hospital staff responsible for delivery has not sanitized his/her hands
  • Disinfected cotton gauze used to cover the stump
  • Clostridium tetani can easily invade the neonate’s umbilical cord and infect the child under the above-listed conditions.


Clostridium tetani can germinate and multiply if the potential of redox reduces on the necrotic umbilical stump. In this condition, the bacterium can easily produce tetanus spasm toxin.

Consequently, the toxin gets dissolved into the blood lymphocytes and affects the central nervous system. It can be a painful and irritating situation for the child. Therefore, it is quite important to follow a safer technique for delivery.

What Are The Symptoms Of Neonatal Tetanus?

This disease affects the baby’s health in 4-12 days. The first signs can be visible in 7 days. You can witness the following signs of this disease:

  • The baby won’t be able to suck milk like other healthy neonates
  • Masticatory muscle spasm
  • Crying
  • The baby’s mouth doesn’t open fully
  • The child can’t consume milk
  • The doctor can use a tongue depressor to open the child’s mouth. If it also not helps, it indicates that the child is suffering from neonatal tetanus.

Signs that tell the child’s condition is fatal:

If you can recognize neonatal tetanus’s symptoms before 7 days, it indicates the bacterial is causing severe damage. The bacteria are producing a lot more toxin with strong virulence than it does in normal conditions. It is a serious condition and the child needs immediate attention.

Shorter the incubation period, the more serious the condition. That’s how you can recognize the severity of neonatal tetanus.  

How To Diagnose Neonatal Tetanus?

Top-skilled professionals can use various methods to diagnose this disease. The following tests can reveal the true cause of the baby’s abnormal activities:

Peripheral blood film

There will be increased neutrophils caused by the stress response. It occurs due to continuous spasm and secondary umbilical cord infection.

Microbiological culture

The lab expert will separate umbilical secretion culture from bacillus tetanus to test how quickly it multiplies. The condition can be severe if bacteria multiply quickly.

Chest X-ray

It helps the doctor in diagnosing secondary lung infections. It indicates the child got infected at the time of delivery.

Brain CT scan

There won’t be obvious abnormalities. However, the signs of intracranial hemorrhage will be there. Such symptoms are caused by convulsions and it helps in diagnosing the disease.

It will be tough to detect clear abnormalities in the EEG test. Besides, the cerebrospinal fluid will be normal.

How To Treat Neonatal Tetanus?

The healthcare provider will offer treatment to prevent infection, control spasm, and nourish the child. The doctor can try the following treatments:

Antispasmodic medicines

Various nerve cells infected by tetanus spasm toxin are responsible for tetanus convulsions. If severe convulsions occur frequently, the child can experience hypoxia of organs such as the heart, brain, or kidneys. It can have fatal consequences!

Some newborn babies have also experienced respiratory complications due to convulsions. Therefore, doctors first try to control convulsions effectively. Antispasmodic drugs offer immediate relief from convulsions. The child relaxes and recovers faster.

Diazepam (Valium)

This medicine can be injected directly through an injection, through a gastric tube, or nasal feeding. The Valium keeps the child in a deep sleep state and helps in rapid recovery.

Phenobarbital sodium

This medicine is provided when diazepam can’t stop cramps. It is injected into the child’s body to keep him calm and comfortable.

Doctors can also use certain seizure medicines to prevent seizures and other similar health issues.

How To Take Care Of Neonates Suffering From Neonatal Tetanus?

Your newborn child will feel pretty comfortable if you nurse him in a clean and quiet room. Make sure he gets clean air to breathe and a calm environment to sleep in as much as possible. The caretaker should always keep his/her hands clean.

Mother should maintain proper hygiene to prevent the transmission of dangerous bacteria. The following tips are also important to follow:

  • Tetanus antitoxin should be used quickly to control spasms.
  • Antibiotics and sedatives should be a part of the treatment.
  • The baby might take a long time to consume milk, but the mother should be patient and feed the baby properly.
  • Constantly monitor the child to ensure he is breathing calmly.
  • Clean the umbilical stump and area daily with clean cotton swabs.

How To Prevent Neonatal Tetanus?

Neonatal tetanus is a curable health issue, but it can also be fatal. Prevention is the best solution to keep the child healthy and comfortable. Follow the below-given tips to prevent this health issue.

Choose a reputable hospital for the delivery

Always choose a hospital, where top-skilled healthcare providers practice. They should strictly disinfect medical equipment and their hands before delivery to prevent infection. The doctor should be ready to inject tetanus injection if all the safety procedures are not followed.

Proper delivery technique

The doctor should use disinfected scissors to cut the umbilical cord. The scissors should be sterilized and kept in a clean environment. The doctor’s hands should be disinfected before cutting the umbilical cord.

Emergency preparation

The hospital staff must keep penicillin, tetanus antitoxin, tetanus immune globulin, and intramuscular injection ready to deal with an emergency. This preparation can prevent the risks of neonatal tetanus.

What Is Tetanus Vaccine And When To Vaccinate Neonates?

A tetanus vaccine is used to protect people against tetanus. When a person suffers from this disease, he should receive immediate treatment. Infection can cause fatal health issues if not treated soon. A tetanus vaccine shot is offered to provide the patient passive immunity against this disease.

The doctor will order certain tests before vaccinating the child. Skin tests and other tests ensure the child is not allergic to antitoxin and other drugs. The doctor can change the vaccination method if the child is allergic to certain ways of vaccination.

Babies usually receive the first shot of tetanus vaccine when they are 15-18 months old. The second shot is provided when the child is 4-6 years old. The age limit can differ in different countries, but this vaccine is important to prevent tetanus.

What Is A Tetanus Injection?

The doctors recommend people to take TIG and TAT shots quickly after injury. You will be safe if you take the injection within 24 hours. The tetanus disease usually takes 7 days to incubate, but this infection can also attack within 24 hours. The TAT and TIG injections offer instant protection against this disease.  

Suppose a person does not take tetanus injection shots after injury, he will face the risks of infection. If a child gets injured 3 years after vaccination, he does not need a tetanus shot to stay safe. The doctor will recommend a tetanus toxoid injection along with TIG or TAT in case of a severely contaminated wound.  

What More You Should Know About Tetanus?

Tetanus bacilli enter the human body through wounds to cause infection. These bacilli start multiplying and create an anaerobic environment to generate exotoxin. It takes only 6-12 days to infect a healthy person. Newborn babies are not immune to this infection. That’s why neonatal tetanus has affected many neonates’ life.

The role of vaccines and tetanus injection in tetanus prevention

You have to take both active and passive immunization measures to prevent this infection. Take your child to a doctor for a tetanus antitoxin injection shot whenever he gets injured. It prevents infection and keeps the child safe in case of an injury.

In case of severe injury

The doctor can increase the tetanus antitoxin dose by 1-2 times in case of severe injuries. The doctor will observe the patient’s wounds for 5- days. There will be no need for another shot if the infection is eliminated. The patient will receive another shot if the infection is not cured completely.


Neonatal tetanus is a preventable disease. Safer delivery techniques can ensure your child’s safety against this disease. Therefore, you should consult with the doctor before delivery and ensure they use perfectly disinfected scissors to cut the umbilical cord.

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