In the previous article, we promised to give you information on how to guard your children from preventable diseases. With this information complied by Dr. Poonam Sambhaji, which speaks about how each disease affects the human body, and what you need to do to prevent them.



What is diphtheria?

Diphtheria is a serious disease caused by a toxin (poison) made by bacteria. It causes a thick coating in the back of the nose or throat that makes it hard to breathe or swallow. It can be deadly. The DTwP/ DTaP vaccine protects against diphtheria.

What are the symptoms of diphtheria?

Diphtheria starts like a cold, with sore throat, mild fever (101 degrees or less), and chills.

Next, the diphtheria toxin makes a thick coating on the back of the nose or throat. It may be blue or greyish green. The coating makes it hard to breathe or swallow.

How serious is diphtheria?

The coating on the throat can get so thick that it blocks the airway, so the person can’t breathe.The diphtheria toxin can attack the heart, causing abnormal heart rhythms and even heart failure. It can also attack the nerves, which leads to paralysis (unable to move parts of the body). About 1 out of 10 people who get diphtheria dies. In children younger than 5 years, as many as 1 out of 5 children who get diphtheria dies.

How does diphtheria spread?

Diphtheria spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can spread the disease for up to 2 weeks after infection.

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough—or pertussis—is a very serious respiratory (in the lungs and breathing tubes) infection caused by the pertussis bacteria. It causes violent coughing you can’t stop. Whooping cough is most harmful for young babies and can be deadly. The DTP vaccine protects against whooping cough.

What are the symptoms of whooping cough?

Whooping cough starts with the following symptoms:

• Runny or stuffed-up nose

• Sneezing

• Mild cough

• A pause in breathing in infants (apnea)

After 1 to 2 weeks, coughing, which can be severe, starts.

• Children and babies can cough very hard, over and over.

• When children gasp for breath after a coughing fit, they make a “whooping”sound. This sound is where the name “whooping cough” comes from. Babies may not cough or make this sound.

• Coughing fits make it hard to breathe, eat, drink, or sleep. Coughing fits happen more at night.

• Babies and young children may turn blue while coughing from lack of oxygen and vomit after coughing fits.

• Coughing fits can last for 10 weeks and sometimes recur with the next respiratory illness.

How serious is whooping cough?

The disease is most dangerous for babies and young children. About half of babies younger than 1 year who get the disease need care in the hospital. About 1 out of 4 hospitalized babies with whooping cough will get pneumonia (a serious lung infection). Whooping cough can also cause seizures (jerking or staring) and brain damage.

How does whooping cough spread?

Whooping cough spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. A person can spread the disease while he or she has cold-like symptoms and for at least 2 weeks after coughing starts. Many babies and young children get whooping cough from adults or older brothers or sisters who don’t know they have the disease. Pregnant women with whooping cough can give it to their newborn babies. Because whooping cough is so harmful in babies, everyone around them needs to be up-to-date with vaccines – to make a circle of protection.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a serious disease caused by a toxin (poison) made by bacteria. It causes painful muscle stiffness and can be deadly. The DTP and Tdap, DT, TT vaccines prevent tetanus.

What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Tetanus in children starts with headache, jaw cramping, and muscle spasms (sudden, involuntary muscle tightening).

It also causes the following:

• Painful muscle stiffness all over the body

• Trouble swallowing

• Seizures (jerking or staring)

• Fever and sweating

• High blood pressure and fast heart rate

Tetanus is often called “lockjaw” because the jaw muscles tighten, and the person cannot open his mouth.

How serious is tetanus?

Tetanus is very dangerous. It can cause breathing problems and paralysis (unable to move parts of the body). Muscle spasms can be strong enough to break a child’s spine or other bones. It can take months to recover fully from tetanus. A child might need weeks of hospital care. As many as 1 out of 5 people who get tetanus dies.

How does a person get tetanus?

The bacteria that cause tetanus are found in soil. They get into the body through a puncture of the skin. A person can also be infected after a burn or an animal bite. Tetanus does not spread from one person to another.

All the above dangerous diseases can be protected with one vaccine – DTP.

What is the DTP vaccine?

The DTaP vaccine is a shot that combines the vaccines for diphtheria and two other serious diseases: tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis). The vaccine helps the body to build up protection against the diphtheria toxin. Most children (about 97 children out of 100) who get all doses of the vaccine will be protected against diphtheria.

Why should my child get the DTP vaccine?

Getting your child the DTP vaccine helps protect him against serious disease. It also helps stop the spread of disease in the community.

When should my child get the DTP vaccine?

Children should get five doses of the DTaP vaccine at the following ages for best protection:

• One dose each at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months;

• A fourth dose at 15 through 18 months; and

• A fifth dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

It is safe to get the DTaP vaccine at the same time as other vaccines, even for


Is the DTP vaccine safe?

The DTP vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing diphtheria (along with two other serious diseases: tetanus and whooping cough). Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. But severe side effects from the DTaP vaccine are very rare.

If my child does not get the DTaP vaccine, will he get diphtheria?

Children who have not had the DTaP vaccine and are exposed to diphtheria could get sick.

Before the diphtheria vaccine, there were about 100,000 to 200,000 cases of diphtheria each year As many as 15,000 people died each year from the disease. Cases dropped quickly after the vaccine. Diphtheria booster needed every 10 years to keep up protection. The diphtheria vaccine does not offer lifetime protection from the disease. Boosters are needed to keep up protection from diphtheria. Children should get a booster vaccine called Tdap (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) once at 11 or 12 years of age.

Adults need a booster called the Td vaccine (for tetanus and diphtheria) every 10 years. Adults should also receive a one-time shot of the Tdap vaccine in place of one Td shot.

There’s more information on preventable diseases coming up, make sure you stay up-to-date.