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More Details on Diphtheria Treatment

With diphtheria, the bacteria aren’t the direct cause of the damage; a toxin they produce is. So treatment is twofold: killing the bacteria and getting rid of the toxin. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria. Only the diphtheria antitoxin can kill the toxin.

If someone’s been exposed to diphtheria but hasn’t developed symptoms, early antibiotic treatment can kill the bacteria before it produces the toxin.

Pretreatment of those exposed but who have no symptoms is one of the following:

  • One shot of benzathine penicillin G (600,000 units for people younger than 6 years old and 1,200,000 units for those 6 years old and older)
  • Seven- to 10-day course of oral erythromycin, (40 mg/kg/day for children and 1 g/day for adults)

If someone already has symptoms, antitoxin and antibiotics should be started ASAP. The antibiotics course is one of the following:

  • Erythromycin orally or by injection for 14 days (40 mg/kg/day; maximum, 2 g/day; divided into two to four doses daily)
  • Procaine penicillin G daily, intramuscularly, for 14 days (300,000 U/day for those weighing 10 kg or less, and 600,000 U/day for those weighing more than 10 kg)

As best I can tell, for people who have symptoms, azithromycin, clarithromycin, and ciprofloxacin work also. I can’t find anything on dosage for them, but since the recommended erythromycin dosage is no more than the usual one, I would assume that other dosages would be no more than their usual ones also.

As with any medicines a licensed health care prescriber should be consulted, and be sure to read up on side effects, interactions, etc.

For information on storing antibiotics for survival situations, download “The Survival Doctor’s Ultimate Emergency Medical Supplies” guide here.

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