Dear Ask The Doctor: Hi Sir/Madam, Four days ago I accidentally wounded my toe by hitting into the edge of a table. The cut was quite deep but I only cleaned it with water. I left it till the next morning and applied antiseptic twice a day following that. My question is .. am I at risk of getting tetanus? I have had full vaccine course when I was little and I had a booster in April last year. Also, I was bitten by a fire ant yesterday on my left foot. It was just a minor bite with no obvious wound on it. However I feel slight numbness on my left leg today. I read in the internet that it might be some allergic reaction to the venom. Does that have relation to the bite? Thanks in advance for answering my questions. Clement
I understand your concern about possible tetanus infection, this is a serious bacterial disease caused by a toxin that leads to stiffness of your jaw muscles and other muscles. Tetanus can cause severe muscle spasms, make breathing difficult and, ultimately, threaten your life.
The bacteria that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, are found in soil, dust and animal feces. When they enter a deep flesh wound, spores of the bacteria may produce a powerful toxin, tetanospasmin, which acts on various areas of your nervous system. Since you had an injury caused by the edge of your table, this would lessen the possibilities of developing tetanus, however you should always take care of any wound by firstly cleaning it thoroughly using soap and water.
Now, you can easily prevent tetanus by being immunized against the toxin. Almost all cases of tetanus occur in people who've never been immunized or who haven't had a tetanus booster shot within the preceding 10 years, and also since you completed the vaccines certainly this would diminish the possibilities as well. About your fire ant sting, the symptoms that you feel are caused by a reaction from your body to the venom which releases histamine causing the pain, swelling and redness.
Avoid scratching the area, you can take antihistamine (like Benadryl) to help prevent allergic reactions and swelling, Apply an ice cube to reduce pain and itching or use a topical corticosteroid cream. Watch for signs of alarm like trouble breathing, chest pain, nausea and dizziness. These are very rare, but if you present any of them, seek immediate attention.