Stabbing and jabbing

IT was after I managed to stab my shin with a broken bamboo cane for the third time in a week when I decided it was time for a tetanus jab.

Slicing though my left index finger with secateurs didn’t help. The bruising hurt more than the wound, but the soil that disappeared under my skin was more worrying.

I bet many of you gardeners haven’t had a tetanus jab since school. I had one 11 years ago, after having Dougie, according to my doctor’s notes, and they are supposed to last ten years. If you haven’t had one that you can remember, it may be worth a visit to the nurse for a booster.

Tetanus is one of those conditions that you think has been eradicated. It hasn’t.

The tetanus bacteria usually enter the body through a cut in the skin. Once inside, the bacteria multiply and release a neurotoxin (poison) called tetanospasmin, which causes the symptoms of tetanus to develop.

Tetanospasmin can spread through the bloodstream, blocking the nerve signals from the spinal cord to the muscles. This causes muscle spasms and rigidity throughout the body, particularly in the neck, face, and jaw (known as lockjaw).

For a tetanus infection, the incubation period (the time between getting the infection and the onset of symptoms) is between 4-21 days. The average incubation time is 10 days.

A tetanus infection must be treated quickly because, left untreated, the condition can be fatal. Tetanus cannot be passed from person to person.

The bacterium is mostly common in soil and manure, which makes it a pretty scary thing for the gardener. But there are less than 10 reported cases a year, thanks to the immunisation of babies for several decades. Those most at risk are over 65, who didn’t get the jab as babies. I was given a combined jab, upper arm, which includes a diptheria and polio booster. Slight swelling a couple of days later, nothing more.

Now I can stab myself with sticks to my hearts content.

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