Diphtheria is a bacterial infection, which mainly affects the nose and throat. Also, it occurs quickly and spreads fast. Normally, children under 5 and adults above 60 are at risk. Those who didn't have immunization vaccines, those who are not well nourished and those who live in unclean areas are mainly at risk.
Symptoms include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and swollen neck glands. The toxin, caused by bacteria can create a thick, fuzzy gray or black coating in the nose, throat or airway. This may lead to breathing troubles or swallowing difficulty. In the next step, your kid may complain of double vision, slurred speech and signs of going into shock.
However diphtheria toxin is highly dangerous; leaving several complications if not properly kept in check. This toxin can spread through the bloodstream and can affect heart and kidney in a very bad way. It may also lead to failure of nerve system, leaving the person paralyzed. If not treated at the right time, death could also happen.
There is a vaccine available for children, namely diphtheria or tetanus or pertussis (DTP or DTaP); and for non-immunized adults, diphtheria or tetanus vaccine (DT) should be given. Generally, those who haven't received the vaccine at all or haven't received the entire course will be at risk.
Please note the immunization schedule, first dose of DTaP vaccines at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, booster dose at 12-18 months of age, second booster dose at 4-6 years of age. Lastly, booster shots at every 10 year would be enough to keep up the protection. Nonetheless, this vaccine has side effects in some cases; but nothing major. They are usually mild side effects.
Diphtheria is highly contagious. Sneezing, coughing or even laughing could pass the disease to the next person. The time it takes for your kid to become infected after being exposed, is normally 2-4 days, sometimes it could go up to 6 days as well.
In case you doubt that your child has diphtheria, hospitalize your child right away. The doctor will give a thorough checkup, and diagnose it through a throat culture. Then the infected person will be given a special anti-toxin to neutralize the diphtheria toxin already circulating in the body. It would also serve as a destroyer of remaining diphtheria bacteria.
In case, the infection has reached advanced stages, ventilator would be necessary for breathing. If the toxins have spread to heart, kidneys, or central nervous system, doctors will have to give him special treatments.
Since it is highly contagious and dangerous, family members are asked to keep a safe distant from the patient. Especially, those who were not been immunized. Doctors will take necessary steps to treat everyone in the household, who might have been exposed to diphtheria.
Hospitalization at the right time would save your child from any of the complications associated with diphtheria. After being medicated, your kid may require 4-6 weeks bed rest for full recovery.
However, those who are affected can once again get affected after some time, in case they fail to follow the vaccinations thereafter. It's advised to take a full course of vaccination even after you have been cured.