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Diphtheria is a severe bacterial illness affecting the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. It is very unusual in developed countries due to highly developed vaccination against the disease.


One or many signs of the disease exhibit a couple of days after the patient have been infected which includes

  • A bulky, gray membrane casing the throat and tonsils
  • A sore throat and roughness
  • Swollen glands (inflamed lymph nodes) in the neck
  • Difficulty breathing or hurried breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever and chills
  • Malaise

Another type of diphtheria affects the skin (cutaneous) thereby causing redness, swelling and pain. Ulcers covered by a gray membrane also develop this kind of diphtheria. It is more common in the Tropical countries and where poor hygiene prevails.

Risk Factors

People at risk of contracting diphtheria are

  • Children and adults who do not have up-to-date vaccination
  • People living in unhygienic conditions
  • Anyone who travels to a place where diphtheria is widespread

Diphtheria not often occurs in the United States and Europe, where health officials have been vaccinating children against the disease for many years now. Nevertheless, diphtheria is still common in developing countries where immunization rates are low.


Doctors may check for diphtheria in a sick child who has a sore throat with a gray membrane casing the tonsils and throat. Growth of C. diphtheriae in a lab culture of matter from the throat membrane identifies the presence of the bacteria. The doctor should inform the laboratory that diphtheria is suspected, as special media are considered necessary for the growth of C. diphtheriae cultures.

Doctors can also take a sample of tissue from a contaminated wound and have it tested in a laboratory to confirm for the type of diphtheria that affects the skin (cutaneous diphtheria).

If doctor suspects for diphtheria, treatment begins straight away, even prior to the results of bacterial tests are obtainable.


Diphtheria is a severe illness. Doctors treat it without delay and insistently with these medications:

An Antitoxin: If doctors suspect diphtheria, the infected child or adult is given an antitoxin. The antitoxin, introduced into a vein or muscle, deactivates the diphtheria toxin already doing rounds in the body.

Before giving an antitoxin, doctors may carry out skin allergy tests to ensure the infected person does not have a reaction to the antitoxin. People who are allergic must first be desensitized to the antitoxin. Doctors achieve this by primarily giving small doses of the antitoxin and then slowly but steadily increasing the dosage.

Antibiotics: Diphtheria is also alleviated with antibiotics (penicillin or erythromycin). Antibiotics help exterminate bacteria in the body and clearing up infections.

Children and adults who have diphtheria often need to get admitted in the hospital for treatment. They may be secluded in an intensive care unit as diphtheria can spread easily to anyone not immunized against the disease.

Doctors may eliminate some of the substantial, gray covering in the throat if the layer is obstructing breathing.

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