Since diphtheria mainly infects the upper respiratory tract, the tonsils and the pharynx are mainly affected. The child has a low grade fever. The child appears more ill than Signs & Symptoms the fever suggests – the so called toxic effect. The child has a cough which is dry. On examining the inside of the mouth a membrane formation can be seen which consists of "Peeled off mucosa". The membrane may be localized or a patch of the posterior pharynx or tonsil, may cover the entire tonsil. The lymph nodes in the neck get enlarged giving a bull neck appearance.
Diphtheria can be controlled by identifying cases as well as carriers. If a case of diphtheria is diagnosed, an active search for carriers should be made among the contacts. All cases, suspected cases and carriers should be promptly isolated, preferably in a hospital, for at least 14 days, or until proved free of infection. For cases of diphtheria, diphtheria antitoxin should be given without delay. In addition to antitoxin, every case should be treated with penicillin. The carriers should be treated with a 10–day course of oral erythromycin, which is the most effective drug for the treatment of carriers.
In its early stages, the clinical features of diphtheria are very similar to that of a sore throat. They appear about three to four days after the infection occurs, and can be contagious for nearly four weeks, even if the symptoms are not developed.
The other symptoms are
- Low grade fever.
- Enlarged lymph nodes (swollen glands) located in the neck.
- Painful, red and swollen skin lesions (in cutaneous diphtheria).
- Loose stools.
- Pain and straining while defecating.
- Crampy pain in the abdomen.