Parents are encouraged to vaccinate their children against diphtheria – a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection.
Dip-a-what? Even the name “diphtheria” sounds confusing! With so many nasty bacterial infections and viruses out there, it’s hard for parents to keep track. You may not have heard of the illness known as diphtheria, or know that it’s important to vaccinate your child against this infection. We have gathered all you need to know about diphtheria, from signs and symptoms to prevention so you can safeguard your child.
What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that lives in the mouth, throat and nose of an infected person. It can be spread by coughing or sneezing. Up to 40% to 50% of patients who don’t get treated can die. The diphtheria toxin can cause damage to your heart, affecting its ability to pump blood. It can also prevent your kidneys’ ability to clear waste.
Is my child at risk?
Diphtheria is more common in:
- Children under 5 and adults over 60 years old
- People living in crowded or unclean conditions
- Children and adults who are not well nourished
- Children and adults whose vaccinations aren’t up to date.
What are the signs and symptoms of diphtheria?
- In its early stages, diphtheria can be mistaken for a bad sore throat.
- A low-grade fever and swollen neck glands are two of the other early symptoms.
- The toxin, or poison, caused by the bacteria can lead to a thick coating in the nose, throat or airway that can cause breathing problems and difficulty in swallowing.
- As the infection progresses the patient may complain of double vision, have slurred speech, and even show signs of going into shock.
Can diphtheria be prevented?
The good news is yes, diphtheria can be prevented. Preventing this disease depends almost completely on giving the diphtheria / tetanus / pertussis vaccine to children and non-immunised adults.
When should my child be vaccinated against diphtheria (DTaP)?
Click here to download your vaccination schedule for both the public and private sector. Also make sure that your own booster immunisations are current.
When to call the doctor
Call your doctor immediately if anyone in your family shows any of the symptoms mentioned above. It’s important to remember, though, that most throat infections are not diphtheria, especially in countries that have routine immunisations against it.