Caring For Your Infant: What You Should Know About Diphtheria

If you are a new parent who follows parenting blogs and debates to get the perspectives of other parents on infant care and health, then you may find yourself questioning whether or not you should vaccinate your child according to the schedules set out by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and most pediatrician and infant care clinics. The choice to immunize your child against certain viruses and other illnesses is entirely yours to make. However, not doing so can have consequences and it is important to know those possible consequences before you make your decisions. One of the vaccines administered during infancy is against diphtheria. Get to know more about diphtheria so that you can make the right vaccination decision for your child.

Diphtheria Causes and Transmission

Diphtheria is caused by a bacteria known as Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Once inside the body, the bacteria will release a toxin into the lungs which can also spread to other areas of the body. This bacterial infection can be transmitted by sneezes, coughs, or other fluids that a person may disperse into the air. 

Diphtheria can also be contracted by touching objects that have come into contact with infected fluids. This is especially problematic for infants as most items they touch or handle come into contact with their saliva or nasal secretions. If an infant is in daycare, at the doctor's office, or in any other place that they come into contact with other children and infants, there is a high likelihood that they will touch something that has been in contact with another child's saliva. 

Diphtheria Symptoms and Complications

If you chose not to vaccinate your infant and they came into contact with a contaminated person or object, there are numerous symptoms that they could have as a result. Diphtheria primarily causes respiratory symptoms and issues as the bacteria take up residence in the lungs and attack the linings and tissues in that part of the body.

As such, sore throat, vocal changes and strain, difficulty breathing, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and a high-pitched wheezing sound when inhaling are all common symptoms. In infants especially, the difficulty breathing and the swollen neck can be the cause of serious and life-threatening distress and complications.

Other symptoms can include a low-grade fever, a faster heart rate, and yellowish sores or spots on the surface of the skin. Asphyxiation (an inability to breathe) is a major concern with this bacterial infection, especially in babies and younger children. If the toxin produced by the bacteria from the infected lungs gets into the bloodstream, there is also a risk of infection in the heart and heart failure.

Diphtheria is treatable even after it is contracted but requires very swift treatment to prevent serious and irreversible complications due to the release of toxins in the body. Antitoxin treatments are administered to stop the production and spread of the dangerous toxin, and antibiotics are used to try to kill the bacteria themselves. However, even with treatment, there is still a risk of death from this serious bacterial infection.

Now that you know more about diphtheria and the ways that it could affect your infant child if you do not get them vaccinated, you can decide for yourself whether or not immunizing your child is right for you. If you decide to vaccinate, go to an infant care clinic as soon as possible so that you can prevent your child from possibly contracting this serious and dangerous bacterial infection.