Diphtheria: Symptom, Treatment

Overview

Diphtheria is an acute infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae species (C. diphtheriae), usually affecting the mucous membranes of your nose and throat and leading to a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. Diphtheria can cause severe damage to kidneys, nervous system, and heart. If not treated, more than 3 percent of people who get diphtheria would die of it.


Causes

As is known to all, diphtheria is caused by the C. diphtheriae. People usually can be infected by person-to-person contact, such as:

  • Airborne droplets.

People may be attacked by diphtheria due to inhalation of an infected person’s mist of contaminated droplets from their sneeze or cough.

  • An infected wound.

People also can be affected by touching an infected wound.

  • Contaminated personal items.

Diphtheria spreads on shared items, such as a cup or used tissue.


Symptoms

Symptoms of diphtheria usually appear two to five days after a person becomes infected. It may include:

  • A fever;
  • Chills;
  • Swollen glands in the neck;
  • A loud, barking cough;
  • A sore throat;
  • Bluish skin;
  • Drooling;
  • A general feeling of uneasiness or discomfort.

Additional symptoms may occur as the disease progresses, including:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing;
  • Changes in vision;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Signs of shock, including pale and cold skin, sweating, and a rapid heartbeat.


Diagnosis

First of all, a physical exam will be conducted on your throat or tonsils. And doctors will ask some questions about your medical history and the symptoms you’ve experienced.

If there is a gray coating on your throat or tonsils, diphtheria would be taken into consideration.

Next, doctors will take a sample of the affected tissue, to find out the type of diphtheria that affects the skin.


Treatment

Taking antitoxin injection is the first step of treatment, which is used to counteract the toxin produced by the bacteria. Before giving an antitoxin, doctors may perform skin allergy tests to make sure that the infected person doesn’t have an allergy to the antitoxin.

Antibiotics, such as erythromycin or penicillin, is also used for the treatment of Diphtheria, aiming to help clear up the infection.


Prevention

Although diphtheria is a very serious and contagious illness, it can be preventable with the use of antibiotics and vaccines. The vaccine for diphtheria is called DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis), which is given soon after birth in a series of five shots.

It’s given to children at the following ages:

  • 2 months;
  • 4 months;
  • 6 months;
  • 15 to 18 months;
  • 4 to 6 years.

Generally, children at the age of 12 or 13 may receive a last DTaP booster shot.

Adults who plan to travel to some areas where diphtheria is still common may be recommended to receive a booster vaccination if needed.


Keyword: diphtheria.


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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.