What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a contagious, bacterial disease that infects the nose, throat or skin. Diphtheria causes a thick coating on the back of the throat that can cause breathing problems for your child. Diphtheria can also damage your child's heart and nervous system and cause paralysis and even death. Babies are at particular risk of complications from diphtheria.
What are the symptoms of diphtheria?
Diphtheria begins with a sore throat and slight fever and progresses to swelling that can block your child's airway, making it difficult to breathe. Diphtheria can also cause skin infections and temporary muscle paralysis.
How can my child catch diphtheria?
Diphtheria is spread through coughing and sneezing. The infection also spreads when children touch toys or other things that someone with diphtheria has handled and then rub their eyes or mouths.
Why is diphtheria serious?
Diphtheria can be serious—especially for infants and very young children. Diphtheria attacks vital organs. One person in 10 who gets diphtheria will die, even with treatment.
Why should my child be immunized against diphtheria?
The best way to protect children against diphtheria is to make sure that they get the diphtheria vaccine. The diphtheria vaccine is your child's best defense against this disease. Experience in other countries has shown that diseases like diphtheria quickly return when fewer people are immunized.
About the diphtheria vaccine...
What kind of vaccine is given to prevent diphtheria?
The diphtheria vaccine is given by needle and is very safe. Like all vaccines authorized for use in Canada, it went through several stages of rigorous testing before being authorized for use.
Can giving my child several vaccines at the same time overwhelm the immune system?
No. Combination vaccines that provide protection against multiple diseases in one vaccine have been shown to be safe and effective. Giving combination vaccines protects children against more diseases sooner. As an added benefit, it also reduces children's discomfort by reducing the number of injections they receive. And it saves parents the time and expense of additional office visits.
Are there any side effects from the diphtheria vaccine?
Side effects of the diphtheria vaccine are usually very mild. Your child may have a slight fever, be fussy, sleepier or have less appetite than usual. Your child’s arm or thigh might be a bit red or sore where the needle went in. These side effects are very common, happen 12 to 24 hours after the immunization and usually go away within a few days.
When should my child get the diphtheria vaccine?
Canadian guidelines recommend that all children get four doses of the combined vaccine that includes diphtheria protection – at age 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 18 months. Your child will get a booster vaccine at 4 to 6 years of age. An additional booster dose, combined with tetanus and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, is given routinely to adolescents between 14 to 16 years of age across Canada.
Parents, make sure that your immunizations are up to date! Adults need a tetanus-diphtheria booster shot every 10 years.
Schedules may vary from province to province. Calculate your child's personal immunization schedule.
Who should not get the diphtheria vaccine?
A child who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the diphtheria vaccine should not get the vaccine again. Signs of a severe allergic reaction would include breathing problems (wheezing), swelling and blotchy skin on the body (hives) or around the mouth. If you see any of these symptoms or are concerned about your child's health, it's always a good idea to check with your doctor or public health office (CLSC in Quebec).