5 Essentials You Must Know About Diphtheria


Diphtheria is an infectious disease which caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacterium.

Through respiratory droplets, Diphtheria is spread from person to person.You may catch the diphtheria bacteria when an infected person is coughing or sneezing around you.  A person can get diphtheria by touching an object, like a toy, that has the Diphtheria bacteria on it. It can be fatal.

1. What are the signs and symptoms of Diphtheria?

The bacteria produces poison that destroys healthy tissues in the respiratory system, most commonly infect your nose and throat. The symptoms of diphtheria usually begin two to seven days after infection.

  • Fever of 38 °C (100.4 °F)

  • Fatigue and chills

  • Sore throat

  • Swollen glands in the neck

  • Difficulty and painful swallowing

  • A loud, barking cough


Image from: Microbiologynutsandbolts

After bacteria destroyed the healthy tissue, within two to three days, the dead tissue will form a thick, gray coating (called "pseudomembrane“) that can build up in patients’ throat or nose. Patient will have hard time breathing and swallowing as the pseudomembrane covers tissues in the nose, tonsils, voice box, and throat.

The poison may also get into the blood stream, damaging the heart, kidneys, and nerves.

2. What are the treatments of Diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a serious condition, so your doctor will treat you quickly and aggressively.

The first step of treatment is an antitoxin injection to kill the bacteria. Your doctor might start with small amount and gradually increase to higher amount if the symptoms didn't improve.

Other than that, doctor will also prescribe antibiotics, such as erythromycin and penicillin, to help clear up the infection.

Diphtheria patients are usually asked to stay in isolation, until they are no longer contagious — this usually takes about 48 hours after starting antibiotics, to avoid passing your infection on to others. After that, doctor will run test to ensure the bacteria is no longer in the system.

Even with treatment, about 1 out of 10 people who gets diphtheria will die.

3. How to prevent?


Image from Rphonthego

  • Vaccination

  • Antibiotics

  • Wash hands with soap

  • Cover up coughs and sneezes.

4. Can you explain more about the Vaccination?

Babies and Children

The vaccine for diphtheria is called DTaP. It’s usually given in a single shot. The DTaP vaccine is administered in a series of five shots. It’s given to children at the following ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • 6 months

  • 12 to 18 months

  • 4 to 6 years

Preteens and Teens

It is recommended that preteens get a booster dose of Tdap at 11 or 12 years old.


Adults should get a dose of Td every 10 years. For added protection against whooping cough, any adult who never received a dose of Tdap should get one as soon as possible. The dose of Tdap takes the place of one of the Td shots.

5. What are the side effects of vaccination?

Most children don’t have any side effects from the vaccination shot. However, they may experience mild side effects such as redness, swelling, and pain from the shot, fever, and vomiting. They happen in about 1 out of every 4 children who get the shot.

More serious side effects are rare but can include:

  • A fever over 105 degrees

  • Nonstop crying for 3 hours or more

  • Seizures (jerking or twitching of the muscles or staring)

by Qian

Qian's interest in healthcare industry came about after her father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. This experience has led her to become a strong believer in empowering individuals to take charge of their own health. View all articles by Qian.


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