8 Symptoms of Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a highly-contagious and potentially life-threatening bacterial infection. Due to vaccines, it is extremely rare in the United States; however, according to the World Health Organization, over 7,000 cases were reported worldwide in 2016.

It is treatable if caught early, but, without proper treatment, permanent damage to the heart, kidneys, nervous system, or even death can result.

Especially in overcrowded areas, this disease is easily spread from one person to another. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria become airborne. Anyone nearby could inhale the bacteria and become infected themselves. Touching personal items or contaminated objects (like dishes or used tissues) also easily spreads the bacteria. Some people are infected without any outward symptoms, but are still able to spread the disease to others.

Diphtheria is caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacterium. As the bacteria multiply, they produce toxins that invade the nose and throat (respiratory diphtheria) or the skin (cutaneous diphtheria). Gradually, the toxins begin to poison the rest of the body. Without treatment, the heart, lungs, nervous system, and kidneys could begin to deteriorate.

You may be at risk for contracting this disease if your vaccines are not up to date, or if you are traveling to an area where vaccine rates are low. Living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions can also place you at greater risk for becoming infected.

Listed below are eight common symptoms of diphtheria. It is important to note that many of these symptoms can occur with other bacterial or viral infections. Even if you have a few (or several) of the symptoms listed below, this does not automatically mean you have it.

However, if you know for certain you were exposed to someone with diphtheria, or you have any concerns about symptoms you currently have, always seek professional medical advice.

1. Body Chills

If you are shivering under several blankets in the heat of the day, and still feel cold, you are experiencing body chills.

Sometimes our bodies get the chills if we are exposed to cold weather for a period of time. These chills are not the result of being out in the cold.

Chills often mean that our core temperature is rising above normal. Although uncomfortable, it is a reassuring sign that our body is producing an inflammatory response to a foreign invader of some sort. As our muscles shiver and shake, our body temperature slowly increases.

Even if you feel miserably cold, resist the urge to bundle up too much; you may unknowingly cause your temperature to climb even higher. Instead, wrap up in a light blanket, try to rest, and drink plenty of fluids.

Chills often accompany many other viral and bacterial infections. Although they can make you feel lousy, chills alone are not a serious concern. However, body chills may be one of the first outward signs that something more serious is developing. Pay attention to other signals that your body may be sending. Monitor your temperature for a fever. Watch for other new symptoms that may follow.