What Is Diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheria. It is a highly contagious disease that primarily affects mucous membranes of the nose and the throat and sometimes the skin. It is easily transmitted from one person to another. In about 3 percent of the cases, the disease might be fatal. But the good news is that it can be prevented by way of vaccines.
The United States and Europe have vaccination programs for children to prevent diphtheria. Hence there this disease is extremely rare. But in some under developed countries, children under and the elderly are at high risk of getting this disease because their immunisation rates are low.
What Are The Symptoms Of Diphtheria?
It takes 2-5 days for symptoms to appear after the bacteria enter the human body. While few people do not experience any symptoms, some show mild symptoms, usually resembling those of common cold. Generally, symptoms include:
- Fever, Chills, A sore throat.
- Swollen glands, Difficulty in breathing.
- Loud coughing, Hoarseness.
- If the infection is untreated, it progresses and causes complications like:
- Slurred speech
- Vision problems
- Shock symptoms like sweating and palpitations
- Further complications happen if the pseudomembrane extends to the larynx and the trachea and obstructs the air passage. This may sometimes cause death.
- Some serious complications include myocarditis, heart damage, septic shock, secondary pneumonia and infection of nervous tissue.
What Are The Causes Of Diphtheria?
Diphtheria is acquired by breathing in droplets of moisture in the air containing the bacteria from an infected person’s sneezes or coughs. This infection also spreads by coming in contact with an infected person or by touching objects like chair, door knob or TV remote which have the bacteria on them.
Once the bacteria enter the human body, it mainly infects the nose and throat. It produces toxins which damage the tissues of the respiratory system. The damaged and destroyed tissues form a thick grey, white coating on the inner side of throat, nose, and tongue. This is called pseudomembrane. Since the pseudomembrane covers the tissues, breathing and swallowing become very hard for the patient.
Sometimes the toxins enter the blood stream and can cause damage to kidney, nerves, and heart.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Diphtheria?
Diphtheria is preventable by immunisation. Children need to be immunised early in their life through vaccination. The vaccine for diphtheria is called DTaP. Sometimes there are side effects of the vaccine:
- Injection site shows redness, pain, and swelling.
- There might appear a lump at the injection site. No treatment required.
- Children may be drowsy, uncomfortable and cranky.
- People who are only carriers of the diphtheria bacteria can be cured by a course of antibiotics.
- Diphtheria patients have to be kept in isolation until they are certified as completely infection free.
- People caring for diphtheria patients should be excluded from school, work and child care. They must follow strict hygiene measures.
- Diphtheria patients must cover their mouths while coughing or sneezing. They must wash hands frequently with soap to prevent spreading the disease.
- Do keep the environment clean to minimise the chances of infecting others.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Diphtheria?
- Infected people should not come in contact with uninfected people.
- Avoid physical exertion if you have any heart-related complication due to diphtheria.
What Are The Best Foods For Diphtheria?
- In the acute stage of the disease, the patient has fever and experiences difficulty in swallowing. So, a liquid is preferred during this period. Fruit juices, milk, and soups are recommended.
- When the patient is able to swallow food, introduce semi solid food, like mashed food.
- Garlic is known to work wonders for the throat. Crush 2 cloves of garlic and roll them in the mouth.
- Eat fruits and vegetables for a daily dose of vitamins and antioxidants to boost immunity and help the body to recover faster.
- Drinking a glass of water with salt mixed in it will give relief to the throat.
What Are The Worst Foods For Diphtheria?
- Spicy food is bound to irritate the already swollen throat. Please avoid it.
- Oily and fatty food may aggravate the inflammation in the throat.
- Avoid alcohol.
What Are The Medicines For Diphtheria?
What Are The Tips To Manage Diphtheria?
On recovery from diphtheria, the patient has to take a full prescribed vaccination course. Bed rest and proper diet are very important in the recovery of diphtheria.