When the bacteria that cause diphtheria get into and attach to the lining of the respiratory system, which includes parts of the body that help you breathe, they produce a poison (toxin) that can cause:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands in the neck
The poison destroys healthy tissues in the respiratory system. Within two to three days, the dead tissue forms a thick, gray coating that can build up in the throat or nose. This thick gray coating is called a “pseudomembrane.” It can cover tissues in the nose, tonsils, voice box, and throat, making it very hard to breathe and swallow.
The poison may also get into the blood stream and cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and nerves.
- Diphtheria Materials
Diphtheria for Parents: The Basics
This fact sheet describes symptoms of infection, as well as benefits and risks of vaccination.
English [2 pages] | Spanish [2 pages]
Diphtheria for Parents: In Depth
This fact sheet offers information about recent diphtheria outbreaks and describes symptoms of infection, benefits and risks of vaccination, details about the vaccine, and history of the disease.
English [2 pages]
- Page last reviewed: January 15, 2016
- Page last updated: January 15, 2016
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