What should I know about diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a serious form of bacterial infection affecting the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. It is caused by a form of bacteria known as Corynbacterium diphtheria. Even though it rapidly spreads, it can be prevented with vaccination.

A doctor should be consulted as soon as possible if diphtheria is suspected. If left untreated, it can cause significant damage to the nervous system, kidneys and the heart.

What are the signs?

The indications of diphtheria often manifest within 2-5 days after being infected. Some do not have any symptoms while others suffer from minor symptoms that strikingly resemble the common cold.

diphtheria

Some do not have any symptoms while others suffer from minor symptoms that strikingly resemble the common cold.

An evident symptom of diphtheria is a dense, gray-colored coating on the tonsils and throat. Other accompanying symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Sore throat
  • Engorged neck glands
  • Bluish skin
  • Loud, bark-like cough
  • Drooling
  • Generalized discomfort or uneasiness

Management of diphtheria

Always bear in mind that diphtheria is a serious ailment where treatment is started right away and done in an aggressive manner.

The initial approach is an antitoxin shot which counteracts the toxin generated by the bacteria. If allergic, the doctor might administer small amounts and steadily build up to larger doses.

Antibiotics are also prescribed such as penicillin and erythromycin to eliminate the infection.

While under treatment, the doctor will require the individual to stay in a healthcare facility to avoid spreading the infection to others.

Prevention

Diphtheria can be prevented with the help of antibiotics and vaccinations. At the present, the vaccine used is known as DTaP. It is administered as a single shot along with vaccines for tetanus and pertussis. The DTaP vaccine is given in a series of 5 shots which starts at 2 months old.

Among adults, it is recommended to receive the combined diphtheria and tetanus booster shot.

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