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What is Diphtheria & How is it Treated?

What is Diphtheria?

Diphtheria which is pronounced as dif-THEER-e-uh is a serious bacterial infection which affects the mucous membranes of your throat and nose.

You will be able to get medications for treating diphtheria. If it is in an advanced stage, diphtheria can damage your kidneys, heart and nervous system. Diphtheria can be deadly even with treatment as many as 3% of the people who are diagnosed with diphtheria die of it. You should immediately see your doctor if your child or you have been exposed to someone with diphtheria. If you do not know as to whether or not your child has been vaccinated against diphtheria, take an appointment with your doctor. It becomes necessary for to ensure that your own immunizations are current.

What is Diphtheria?

Previously diphtheria was a major cause of illness and death amongst the children.

Why Diphtheria Causes Thick Covering at Back of Throat?

Since diphtheria effects the nose and throat and releases bacterial toxins into the blood stream, it often causes thick covering at the back of the throat.

Diphtheria produces a toxin. This toxin is able to damage the tissue in the immediate vicinity of the infection, especially near the nose and throat. At that site, it results in a gray and tough colored membrane which is made up of bacteria, dead cells, and other substances. It can even come under the path of breathing.

Causes of Diphtheria

Bacteria which is known as Corynebacterium diphtheria causes diphtheria. It is a condition which is spread when you come in contact with objects having bacteria on them. These can include a cup or used tissue and from person-to-person contact. It will also be possible for you to get diphtheria if you are in close contact with an infected person when they cough, sneeze, or blow their nose. Despite the fact that the infected person will not show any signs or symptoms of diphtheria. Other causes of diphtheria include:

  • Airborne droplets causes diphtheria. On sneezing or coughing, the infected person produces a mist of droplets which are contaminated. Those people who are nearby are most likely to inhale C. diphtheria. It is in this way that Diphtheria spreads efficiently especially in crowded conditions.
  • Contaminated personal items cause diphtheria. It is occasionally that the people catch diphtheria from drinking from the person’s unwashed glass, and when they handle an infected person’s used tissues.

Symptoms of Diphtheria

The most common as well as visible symptoms of diphtheria is in the form of a gray and thick coating on the tonsils and the throat. Other common symptoms include:

  • A fever.
  • A general feeling of uneasiness or discomfort.
  • A barking and loud cough.
  • A sore throat.
  • Skin which is Bluish.
  • Chills.
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.
  • Drooling.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Malaise.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Swollen glands in the neck.

Additional symptoms of diphtheria include:

  • Changes in vision.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Signs of shock like a cold and pale skin.
  • Sweating.
  • A rapid heartbeat.
  • Slurred speech.

Complications of Diphtheria

The following are the complications from diphtheria:

  • Airway blockage.
  • Damaging the heart muscle.
  • Loss of the ability to move.
  • Lung infection.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Heart damage. It is through your bloodstream that the diphtheria toxins may spread thereby damaging other tissues in your body like your heart muscle thereby resulting in complications like inflammation of the muscle myocarditis.

Diagnosis of Diphtheria

It will be your doctor who will undertake a physical exam for diphtheria in order to check for swollen lymph nodes. You will be asked to tell your medical the symptoms you ave been having and your history.

It is quite likely that will take a sample of the affected tissue to confirm the diagnosis, and send it to a laboratory for testing. If your doctor is of the doubt that diphtheria of the skin a throat culture may also be taken.

Treatment for Diphtheria

The first and foremost treatment for diphtheria is an antitoxin injection which is made use to overcome the toxin which has been produced by the bacteria. It becomes necessary for you to ensure that you let your doctor know if you are allergic to the antitoxin. They will provide you with an antitoxin in small doses and gradually build up to higher amounts. They will also prescribe antibiotics like erythromycin and penicillin which will help clear up the infection.

Your doctor during the course of the treatment will ask you to stay in the hospital as in this way you will not be able to pass your infection on to others.

If your doctor suspects that you have diphtheria, treatment begins immediately, even before the results of bacterial tests are available. On being exposed to a person infected with diphtheria consult your doctor for testing and possible treatment. You will be given a prescription for antibiotics by your doctor which can help prevent you from developing the disease. It may be that you may be needing a booster dose of the diphtheria vaccine.

Prevention of Diphtheria

It is possible to prevent diphtheria by using antibiotics and vaccines. DTaP is a vaccine for diphtheria. The DTaP vaccine is administered in a series of five shots. It’s usually administered under a single shot along with vaccines for pertussis and tetanus. There are rare cases in which a child can have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. It results in hives or seizures which will later go away.

Home Remedies for Diphtheria

If you are suffering from diphtheria then refer the below-mentioned points for some home remedies to follow:

  • Garlic juice is a great home remedy for diphtheria. Garlic is able to cure many deadly diseases. It provides an astonishing feel of giving relief. As a remedy for treating Diptheria two to three teaspoonful of crushed garlic cloves should be taken. Swallow it and keep rolling it in your mouth. This process should be repeated for some time.
  • Smoke tobacco to treat diphtheria. Purchase a tobacco pipe that has a live coal in its bowl. You should smoke it in your mouth by placing a little tar on it now exhale it from your nostrils. It is a safe as well as tested method which can be done easily to lessen the symptoms of diphtheria.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Diphtheria: https://www.cdc.gov/diphtheria/index.html
  2. MedlinePlus – Diphtheria: https://medlineplus.gov/diphtheria.html
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 31, 2023

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