DESCRIPTIONDiphtheria is a highly contagious throat infection. The throat, skin, heart, and central nervous system are involved. Diphtheria can affect older children (5 years and up), adolescents, and adults.
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications. This is a medical emergency.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSSore throat.
Swollen neck glands.
Airway obstruction and breathing difficulty.
Shock (low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, paleness, cold skin, sweating, and anxious appearance).
A bacterial germ, corynebacterium diphtheriae, infects the child's throat and sometimes the skin. The incubation period is 5 to 9 days following exposure. The germ produces poisons that spread to the child's heart, central nervous system, and other organs.
RISK FACTORSPoor nutrition.
Outbreak in the community.
Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.
Lack of up-to-date immunizations.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Immunization with diphtheria vaccine. See Appendix 1 for an immunization schedule.
Improved nutrition and standard of living.
Notify the local health department of any case of diphtheria. Anyone having contact with your child must be examined and treated.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies, such as throat culture and blood counts.
Heart inflammation and heart failure.
Misdiagnosis as a less-serious infection, resulting in dangerous delay of treatment.
Usually curable in 1 week, followed by slow recovery for several weeks. A delay in treatment may result in death or long-term heart disease for your child.
Quarantine your child until fully recovered. Protect susceptible individuals (the non-immunized, very young, or elderly) from exposure.
Dispose of all the child's secretions (nose and mouth) and excretions (urine and feces) in an acceptable manner. Call the local health department for instructions.
MEDICATIONDiphtheria antitoxin to neutralize the diphtheria toxin.
Antibiotics to fight the remaining diphtheria germs.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your doctor may prescribe:
Prolonged bed rest (2 to 3 months or until fully recovered), especially if the child's heart is involved. The child may watch TV or read.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet, except to encourage your child to eat heartily.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of diphtheria or you observe them in someone else.
Anyone in your family is exposed to diphtheria.
The following occurs during treatment:
-- Temperature spikes to 102F (38.9C).
-- Increasing breathing difficulty.
-- Increasing shortness of breath.