Preparing for your appointment

If you have symptoms of diphtheria or have come into contact with someone who has diphtheria, call your doctor right away. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and on your vaccination history, you may be told to go to the emergency room or call 911 or your local emergency number for medical help.

If your doctor determines that he or she should see you first, it's critical to be well-prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready and know what to expect from your doctor.

Information to gather in advance

  • Pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make your appointment, ask if there are any restrictions you need to follow in the time leading up to your visit, including whether you should be isolated to avoid spreading infection.
  • Office visit instructions. Ask your doctor whether you should be isolated when you come to the office for your appointment.
  • Symptom history. Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long.
  • Recent exposure to possible sources of infection. Your doctor will be especially interested to know if you have recently traveled abroad and where.
  • Vaccination record. Find out before your appointment whether your vaccinations are up to date. Bring a copy of your immunization record, if possible.
  • Medical history. Make a list of your key medical information, including other conditions for which you're being treated and any medications, vitamins or supplements you're currently taking.
  • Questions to ask your doctor. Write down your questions in advance so that you can make the most of your time with your doctor.

The list below suggests questions to raise with your doctor about diphtheria. Don't hesitate to ask more questions during your appointment.

  • Could I have diphtheria?
  • Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?
  • Are there any possible side effects from the medications I'll be taking?
  • How long do you expect a full recovery to take?
  • When do you expect I will be able to resume normal activities?
  • Am I at risk of any long-term complications from diphtheria?
  • Am I contagious? How can I reduce my risk of passing my illness to others?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have you had any trouble breathing, a sore throat or difficulty swallowing?
  • Have you had a fever? How high was the fever at its peak, and how long did it last?
  • Have you recently been exposed to anyone with diphtheria?
  • Is anyone close to you having similar symptoms?
  • Have you recently traveled abroad? Where?
  • Did you update your immunizations before traveling?
  • Are all of your immunizations current?
  • Are you being treated for any other medical conditions?
Dec. 08, 2016
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  2. Barroso LF, et al. Epidemiology, pathophysiology of diphtheria. Accessed Sept. 23, 2016.
  3. Barroso LF, et al. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of diphtheria. Accessed Sept. 23, 2016.
  4. Diptheria. Merck Manual Professional Version. Accessed Sept. 23, 2016.
  5. Birth-18 years and catch-up immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Accessed Sept. 23, 2016.
  6. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years and older — United States, 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Sept. 23, 2016.
  7. Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine information statement. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Sept. 23, 2016.