Caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, diphtheria is an extremely serious disease. Without effective treatment, the disease can cause difficulty breathing and may lead to paralysis, heart failure and death. Characterized by a thick covering in the throat, patients can contract diphtheria by being in contact with an infected individual or a person who is carrying the disease.
Initially, symptoms of diphtheria can be fairly mild and the patient may experience a sore throat and/or fever. Following this, however, the patient's symptoms can worsen significantly and may result in a life-threatening situation.
Although the disease is rare in the US, the Diphtheria Antitoxin is still used to treat patients who have contracted diphtheria. In addition to this, the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection may be given to patients who have been in contact with someone with the disease or who have been exposed to the disease in some way.
Comprised of antibodies which are used in the treatment of diphtheria, the Diphtheria Antitoxin is a common vaccination and may be given to children as part of a standard vaccination program. If patients have not previously received the vaccination or have been in an area whilst a diphtheria outbreak has been ongoing, they may require the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection.
After receiving the Diphtheria Antitoxin, patients may experience some side-effects. Although these can vary in severity, they are preferable to the risk of contracting the disease. If patients experience the following adverse effects after receiving the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection, they should contact their physician for advice:
Patients should also seek medical advice if they develop any side-effects which are not listed above. In addition to this, patients can report the presence of other side-effects to the Food and Drug Administration on 1-800-FDA-1088.
When patients are given the Diphtheria Antitoxin, the dose they will receive will depend on whether they are exhibiting symptoms of the disease. If the patient is being given the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection as a preventative measure, they may be given 1000 international units of the solution via an intramuscular injection. This dose is normally given as a single injection and takes a very short time to administer.
However, if patients are displaying symptoms of diphtheria or if tests have confirmed that the disease is present, doses of between 20,000-60,000 international units may be given. For patients who are showing extensive symptoms of the disease for a period of 3 days or more, a dose of 80,000-120,000 international units may be administered. If patients are given a higher dose of Diphtheria Antitoxin, they may be given numerous injections over whilst they are being treated for the disease.
When patients are given the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection, it will be carried out by a doctor or an alternative healthcare practitioner. Patients will not, therefore, have to administer their own injections or calculate the correct dose of medication.
Prior to receiving the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection, patients should inform their doctor if they are suffering from any other medical conditions. Although existing medical conditions may affect the way the Diphtheria Antitoxin works, the necessity of receiving treatment for diphtheria normally means that physicians will prescribe the Diphtheria Antitoxin anyway. In some cases, additional medications may be given to reduce any adverse effects occurring, particularly if the patient has existing health problems.
Patients should tell their doctor if they are using any other medication before they receive the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection. This includes over-the-counter medicines which the patient has purchased, as well as herbal supplements, sports supplements and/or vitamins. Furthermore, patients should obtain medical advice before using these substances if they have receive the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection recently.
When diagnosing diphtheria, physicians will take cultures from the patient's nose and/or throat, as well as from any lesions which are present. Once these cultures have been examined, a diagnosis of diphtheria can be confirmed. However, if the patient's clinical presentation indicates that they are suffering from the disease, the Diphtheria Antitoxin should be administered immediately, even if the cultures have yet to be examined.
If a diagnosis of diphtheria occurs, or if physicians suspect a patient is suffering from diphtheria, they must notify public health officials immediately. If other people have been exposed to the disease, further Diphtheria Antitoxin injections may need to be administered.
After treatment with the Diphtheria Antitoxin, patients should be monitored carefully. Confirmation of elimination should only been given after two negative cultures occur. This means that patients will have at least two cultures taken and receive at least two consecutive negative results before they will be free of the disease.
Even if patients have received the Diphtheria Antitoxin as part of a standard vaccination program, they may require additional injections. Whilst booster injections may be given every ten years, Diphtheria Antitoxin injections may be required earlier if the patient has been exposed to the disease.
If patients have exhibited sensitivity to previous Diphtheria Antitoxin injections, physicians should be made aware of this. If the injection is being given as a preventative measure, lower doses of the medication may be administered to test the patient's reaction.
In rare cases, patients may exhibit an allergic reaction to the Diphtheria Antitoxin. If so, anaphylaxis may occur and the patient my experience the following symptoms:
If patients exhibit these symptoms, it should be treated as a medical emergency. As the injection is usually delivered in a clinical setting, healthcare practitioners should be on hand to provide immediate medical intervention if the patient develops an allergic reaction.
In some cases, patients may experience serum sickness after receiving the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection. This is characterized by a feeling of discomfort, aching muscles, swollen lymph glands, a rash on the skin, inflammation of the joints and/or fever. If patients notice these symptoms developing, they should notify their physician straight away.
Similarly, patients may have a thermal reaction to the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection. Normally, this occurs within 20 minutes 1 hour of the injection being administered and involves a swift rise in body temperature, difficulty in breathing and/or a chilly or cold sensation. Patients should inform their physician if they experience these symptoms after receiving the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection.
Even though diphtheria is relatively rare in the US, it's vital that adequate stores of the antitoxin are available. If numerous people are exposed to the disease, it's essential that they are given the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection as quickly as possible as this could prevent an outbreak occurring.
It's important, therefore, that Diphtheria Antitoxin is stored carefully in secure locations across the country. Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, the Diphtheria Antitoxin should be kept between temperatures of 2-8°C (36-46°F).
However, the Diphtheria Antitoxin should not be frozen and should not be administered to patients if it has been frozen at any point.
When patients receive the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection, it will be administered in a hospital or clinical setting. As a result, patients will not need to store the solution at home or administer the injections themselves.
Due to effective immunization programs, instances of diphtheria are now fairly rare. In the western world and the US, in particular, it is rare for people to contract the disease. However, it is still possible for people to develop the disease if they have been exposed to an infected individual or a carrier of the disease.
If patients become aware that they have been exposed to diphtheria, it is essential that they seek medical help immediately. By obtaining the Diphtheria Antitoxin injection quickly, they can reduce the chance of developing the disease and they can also ensure that they don't expose anyone else to diphtheria.
Although the Diphtheria Antitoxin is associated with a number of side-effects, not every patient will experience adverse effects are receiving the injection. Those patients who do suffer side-effects may only experience relatively mild symptoms and these are not normally troublesome. As the benefits of the Diphtheria Antitoxin greatly outweigh the potential risks, patients who have been exposed to the disease are generally advised to have the injection.
Similarly, patients who have contracted diphtheria will require treatment in order to prevent the disease from worsening. As diphtheria is life-threatening for the majority of patients, it's vital that they are isolated and treated with Diphtheria Antitoxin as quickly as possible.