Diphtheria is a severe contagious ailment of the upper respiratory tract brought about by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. While this ailment basically has an effect on the mucus membranes of the upper respiratory tract (known as respiratory diphtheria), diphtheria may possibly also have an effect on the skin (known as cutaneous diphtheria) as well as the tissues lining the eye, ear and also the area in the vicinity of the genital organs.

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It may be noted that a bacterial contagion, diphtheria transmits without difficulty and takes place rapidly. This disease primarily has an effect on the nose and throat. Children below the age of five and adults above 60 years are especially faced with the risk for being infected by the bacterium that causes the disease. In addition, people inhabiting unhygienic and swarming conditions, people who are malnourished and children as well as adults who don't have modern or latest inoculations also face the risk of developing this disease.

In the initial stages of the disease, people may often mistake diphtheria to be a case of awful tender throat. The other early symptoms of the disease include an inferior fever as well as distended glands of the neck.

A toxin or venom produced by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria may result in a dense covering or membrane inside the nose, airway or throat making a diphtheria infection distinct from additional more widespread contaminations that are responsible for sore or tender throat, for instance, strep throat. Generally, this coating is nebulous and has a gray or black shade and may make breathing difficult and swallowing anything troublesome.

With the advancement of the infection, some individuals possibly will experience problems in breathing or swallowing, endure double vision, and their speech may become slurred or garbled. In some patients, the disease may even exhibit signs of getting into fright, for instance, the skin may turn to be cold and pale, the patient may perspire profusely, his/ her look may seem to be apprehensive and their heartbeat may become faster.

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When the infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria spread beyond the throat, the toxin of diphtheria circulates by means of the bloodstream and may even result in possibly fatal problems, which may have an effect on other organs of the body, for instance, the heart as well as the kidneys.

The poison/ toxin caused by the bacteria may even harm the heart, which, in turn, has an adverse impact in its capability to pump blood or affect the ability of the kidneys to get rid of the waste and toxic substances from the body. Additionally, this toxin may result in grave damages to the nerves, ultimately causing paralysis. It has been found that a high percentage of patients, about 40 to 50 per cent, who do not avail proper treatment, may succumb to diphtheria.

It may be noted that prevention of this infectious disease more or less solely requires inoculating children with diphtheria/ pertussis (DTP or DTaP)/ tetanus vaccines as well as immunizing adults, who have not been inoculated, with the diphtheria/ tetanus vaccine (DT). In effect, majority of the incidences of diphtheria takes place in individuals who have not received the vaccine ever or have not received the complete regimen of the vaccine.

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The immunization regimen for preventing diphtheria is as follows:

Receiving DTaP (Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis) vaccines at the age of two, four and six months and, subsequently receiving a booster dose at the age between 12 and 18 months. Another booster dose is administered when the child is between 4 and 6 years old. Following this, booster shots are given once in every 10 years with a view to sustain the protection from this infectious disease.

While majority of the children can tolerate these vaccines pretty well, at times these vaccines may result in minor side effects, for instance, tenderness and redness at the site of the injection, a low-grade fever, or common weirdness or fussiness. However, administration of these vaccines seldom causes severe side effects, such as allergic reactions.

As aforementioned, diphtheria is extremely contagious. It transmits very easily from an infected person to other people by means of coughing, sneezing, and also laughing. In addition, the spread of this disease also spreads depending on who collects the tissues or drinking glasses that have been used and left by a person suffering from diphtheria.

This infectious disease also spreads to close contacts through direct interaction with nasopharyngeal secretions, by means of airborne respiratory droplets or even via skin lesions. However, diphtheria is seldom spread by objects that have been infected by people who are already suffering from the disease. Congestion as well as inferior living conditions may also help the disease in spreading further.

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People who have already been infected with the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae that causes diphtheria, but do not have any symptoms of the disease may spread the infection among others within four weeks of them being infected. In effect, the incubation period, or the time taken by any individual to be infected following their exposure to the disease, for diphtheria is anything between two to four days. However, in some cases, the period may even vary between one and six days.

It may be noted that the sole known reservoir of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria are human beings. Individuals who are infected by this bacterium may grow the indications of diphtheria, or turn out to be carriers of this bacterium having no symptoms of the disease whatsoever. Such infected persons are known as asymptomatic carriers, who have the aptitude to work as reservoirs for lively infection and may possibly pass on diphtheria among other people.

Generally, the signs of respiratory diphtheria commence following an incubation phase of two to five days. The most common symptoms of respiratory diphtheria may include, fever, sore throat, hoarseness, melancholy, problems in breathing and swallowing.

As the disease (respiratory diphtheria) advances, the infected person is also likely to develop zealot gray membrane, known as pseudo membrane, which forms on top of the lining tissues of the tonsils and/ or nasopharynx.

People suffering from the most acute form of the disease are also likely to develop swelling of the neck and distended lymph nodes of the neck resulting in a look that is called a 'bull-neck'. Expansion of the pseudo membrane (the adherent gray membrane) into the larynx as well as the trachea may cause hindrance in the bronchial air passage, which may eventually result in suffocation and even death.

On the other hand, cutaneous diphtheria is marked by a skin ulcer that is covered with a greyish-brown membrane and does not heal easily. This form of diphtheria is generally a restricted infection that is seldom related to systemic complications.

Supplements and herbs

Several herbs and supplements have been found to be highly effective in treating diphtheria. Some of them are described briefly below.

Table salt
Many of us are aware that common salt may be an excellent preference for treating diphtheria. In order to cure a sore throat, simply drink a full glass of water with some amount of salt. The salt and water solution will surely facilitate in lessening the pain. In addition, it is also beneficial for people enduring breathing difficulties, which generally happen owing to absence of salt in the body.

Garlic is an extremely beneficial herb, which is known to heal several lethal ailments. Garlic possesses the strange feeling of providing relief in the most awful conditions. In the form of a medication, you may take one spoonful of two to three pounded cloves of garlic and it does something marvellous in curing diphtheria. Roll the crushed garlic cloves in the mouth and gulp it down. Repeat this process for some time. Alternately, you may also chew one garlic clove to get rid of the pseudo membrane (the adherent gray membrane), lower the body temperature as well as ease your symptoms. In effect, you may use approximately 30 grams of garlic for three to four hours regularly for about a week.

Mixture of herbs
A mixture or paste prepared with castor leaves, garlic and drumstick leaves is useful in treating respiratory diphtheria. After you have prepared the paste, allow the patient to breathe it in. The patient may also use the paste along with lukewarm water in the form of a gargle.

Smoke tobacco
Take hold of a tobacco pipe having a burning coal in its bowl. Then, put a small amount of tar on the coal and smoke it in the mouth and draw out the smoke from the nostrils. This is a very safe and proven process to treat respiratory diphtheria and can be performed without any difficulty.

Individuals suffering from diphtheria must be given orange juice and water in small amounts with a view to support the resistance of the body against the infection by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, which is responsible for the disease. In addition, the patient may also be given small amounts of pineapple juice at regular intervals with a view to get rid of the pseudo membrane and its deposits.

In addition, the herbs black walnut and golden seal are also useful in treating diphtheria.

Additional things you may do

Besides conventional allopathic treatment, especially vaccinations, and using herbs and supplements, you may do a number of other things to treat diphtheria as well as ease the symptoms of this infectious disease. Plenty of bed rest is necessary for quick recuperation from diphtheria. In addition, people suffering from this disease should keep away from undertaking physical hard work.

This is very essential because the disease affects the heart of the patient. Precisely speaking, the patients should stay in bed rest for some weeks or till they have completely recovered from the ailment.

The entire period, during which the patient remains infected by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, the bacterium which causes diphtheria, the patient should strictly remain in isolation to ensure that the infection is not transmitted to others. Every person in the household should be careful and wash their hands meticulously to avoid the infection from spreading.

As people suffering from diphtheria endure extreme pain and have difficulty in swallowing, they need to get their nutrition in liquid form as well as soft foods for some period of time.

When the patient has completely recuperated from diphtheria, he/ she will require taking a complete course of diphtheria vaccine with a view to prevent the disease from occurring again. Once you have suffered from diphtheria, it does not mean you will never develop this infectious disease again in your lifetime. In case an individual is not completely immunized against the disease, he/ she may have the disease several times in their life.

In addition, the patient should be administered warm water enema every day. As mentioned earlier, the patient also needs to be kept in strict isolation, away from everyone for about four to six weeks. The patient also should be careful and always sleep sideways with a view to avoid swallowing the secretions formed in the mouth.

The patient may keep absorbent cotton inside his/ her mouth for this purpose and this cotton should be renewed many times daily. Inhaling moist hot steam or applying wet pack to the throat at intervals of two hours will help to ease the symptoms of diphtheria. For the initial few days, it is important to keep the patient on an only fruit diet and later be given a well-balanced diet.

Some drugs are available in the market to treat diphtheria, but all of them are prescription medicines and may cause side effects if taken without prescription. In effect DTaP (Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis) and DTP (Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis) are the two most reliable prescription drugs for treating diphtheria. Here is a word of caution; these two medications ought to be taken when all other remedies fail to respond. In addition, the patient may also be given Penicillin or erythromycin simply with a view to prevent any type of infection that might attack stealthily.

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