Diphtheria Vaccination

Diphtheria is an infectious bacterial disease that can cause difficulties in breathing. In severe cases, without a Diphtheria vaccine, the disease can cause respiratory failure, heart failure or a build-up of toxins in the nervous system, all of which can be fatal. It is usually spread through coughs and sneezes.

Travel Vaccinations
Per Dose
Tetanus, Diphtheria & Polio
£49 per dose
1 Dose


Diphtheria is preventable disease with a simple Diphtheria vaccine. Travellers to areas at risk may be recommended a single course injection to cover against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio.

In the UK the Tetanus, Diphtheria & Polio vaccine (Td/IPV) is part of the childhood immunisation schedule.

Countries at risk

Cases of Diphtheria are most frequently reported in India, Indonesia, China, Papua New Guinea, Russia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and several countries in Central and South America. While there are certain areas for which we always recommend vaccination, it is advised that you check with us for the very latest on the status of your destination.

Travel Precautions

Diphtheria can affect people of all ages, but the groups who are most at risk include children who haven’t been immunised and older adults who may not have been vaccinated as children. All travellers who have not had the Diphtheria vaccine are at risk, so the most important precaution to take is to ensure that all travellers are vaccinated. You can also avoid Diphtheria by planning to take your holiday in the warmer months of the year.

Signs and Symptoms

Diphtheria attacks the respiratory system and occurs in the throat, so many of its symptoms are related to this area of the body. Sufferers may complain of difficulty in breathing or swallowing, sore throats, headaches, chills and fever. More outwardly visible symptoms include a heavy cough, bluish skin colouration, rapid and/or shallow breathing.


Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease affecting the upper respiratory tract, and sometimes it affects the skin. The bacterial infection is caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae or ulcerans. Classical Diphtheria is now rare in the UK, but risks can be high in some countries, especially where hygiene is poor.

Transmission of Diphtheria is typically contracted through droplet infection and spread by person-to-person contact but can also be contracted through cattle, consumption of unpasteurised dairy products or through poorly cleaned objects that have been contaminated with the bacterium. These objects could be something simple and innocent, such as a cup or bedlinen soiled by infected individuals. People can be carriers of Diphtheria too which spreads disease.

Diphtheria currently occurs most often in India, Indonesia, China, Papua New Guinea, Russia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and several countries in Central and South America. However, no matter where you’re visiting, it’s always best to seek advice from a travel health expert to ensure you’re fully protected.

The best way to prevent illness is by vaccination. Making sure you are up to date with all your schedules and boosters. While abroad, make sure your hands and food hygiene is optimised, avoiding raw or unpasteurised dairy foods with frequent use of hand gels. Avoid people with upper respiratory tract infections, especially in high-risk countries. The elderly or individuals with underlying conditions may be more vulnerable to infection.

The primary symptom of Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract infection and pharyngitis. Infection is unlikely to develop progressively in vaccinated individuals. You may notice a thick grey /yellow coating on your tongue, nose and throat. High fever, a cough and headache commonly occur, and sometimes difficulty in swallowing and breathing difficulties may arise. Skin changes and ulcers can develop in the non-respiratory transmission.

Diphtheria can be fatal in some cases. Unvaccinated individuals, those with underlying medical conditions or the young and elderly will be more vulnerable. Diphtheria can cause serious long-term conditions affecting the nervous system, adrenal glands and the heart, with potential to cause heart failure, paralysis.

If Diphtheria is identified and treated right away, it can be cured with an antibiotic and antitoxin regime. The longer Diphtheria is left untreated, the less likely it is that the infected individual will make a full recovery. Sometimes healthcare infrastructures in other countries are of a poorer quality where availability of treatment programs are sub-optimal. Vaccination and prevention before travel gives people the best outcome.

For all patients, the combination vaccine, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio costs £50 at London Travel Clinic. You can book vaccinations online here, or, for more information, contact 020 34321 381.

The best way to avoid Diphtheria is to ensure you’re fully vaccinated against it. If you’re planning on travelling to an area affected by Diphtheria, then vaccination is always recommended where needed. Outbreaks of Diphtheria occur throughout the world which is why it's best to attend for a travel consultation with a specialist nurse, at least 4-8 weeks before you travel.

Ten years if travelling to high-risk countries, but dependent upon whether you have completed your full schedule previously.

The Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio (often referred to as TDP) vaccination is relatively pain-free. A typical reaction may include some local tenderness and redness at the injection site; sometimes people can feel a little flu-like.