Diphtheria Treatment & Symptoms

Diphtheria Causes, Symptoms, Prevention

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection which affects the throat and can be transferred from person to person. The bacteria can enter the body through the ears, eyes and genitals. The bacteria multiply and produce a toxin that can result into tissue death. Diphtheria is mostly common in babies who are not immunized or partially immunized. The percentage of babies affecting from diphtheria is higher than 20 percent.


Diphtheria is caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is caused in babies through close physical contact of an infected person. Diphtheria can be spread by respiratory droplets when someone coughs, laughs and sneezes. In babies, diphtheria is also caused through the food supply which the baby is taking.


After being exposure to the diphtheria bacteria, babies get a throat infection, mild fever within two to four days. If proper treatment is not done for diphtheria then the bacteria produce toxin which spreads throughout the body. It can cause problems like paralysis and heart failure. Sometimes babies can get breathing problems too due to a thick membrane which forms in their throat.

Diphtheria’s fatality rate is about 10 percent and this disease lasts for about two to three weeks after getting infection. If this infection is serious, it can cause swelling of the neck which is known as “bullneck”. As a result, it leads to death also. Some other symptoms are:-

  • Husky voice
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nasal drainage
  • Enlarged lymph glands of the neck


The diagnosis can be confirmed if the baby is having mild fever and seeing the affected mucous membrane in the mouth.


The treatment for diphtheria depends on the baby’s physician which is based on the following:-

  • Extent of the condition of the baby
  • Opinion or preference
  • The baby’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures and therapies
  • The baby’s age, medical history and overall health
  • Expectations for the course of the condition

Antibiotics are useful for treating respiratory diphtheria otherwise it can release poison in the blood. If diphtheria is diagnosed by the doctor, an antitoxin can be given along with the antibiotics. If the baby suffers from severe breathing problems, a tracheostomy is done which is a breathing tube and inserted in the windpipe through surgery so that the baby can breathe through that tube.


The diphtheria vaccine which is introduced is very beneficial from preventing diphtheria. Earlier, when this vaccine is not introduced, about 17000 babies died in the US in a single year. But now over the last few years no cases of diphtheria are being reported in the US .


The combination of three vaccines- Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis should be given to the babies in their childhood so that it can protect them from any infection and various other diseases. DTaP vaccine is a kind of the vaccine which can cause less reaction. These vaccines should be given to the babies at the age of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 15 to 18 months.