Diphtheria: Symptoms

What are the symptoms of diphtheria?

Some people who are infected with diphtheria will not show any symptoms. For others, symptoms will begin 2 to 5 days after exposure.

Initial symptoms include:

  • fever and chills
  • sore throat

The illness can progress quickly and cause thick mucous to be produced and swelling that blocks your airway. This makes breathing and swallowing difficult. In some cases it can also lead to temporary muscle paralysis (meaning you cannot move your muscles). When this happens the illness can lead to suffocation or even death.

Diphtheria can also cause infections on the skin that show up as rashes or ulcers.

What to do if you become ill

If you or your child show the symptoms of diphtheria, call your health care provider as soon as possible. Describe your symptoms over the phone before your appointment so the clinic can arrange to see you without exposing others to diphtheria.

It is very important to identify diphtheria, treat it early and prevent it from spreading.

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