A combined vaccination that protects against diphtheria, polio and tetanus is routinely given to all children in the UK.
You should make sure you and your children are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations before travelling.
Further booster doses are usually only recommended if you're going to visit parts of the world where diphtheria is widespread and your last vaccination dose was more than 10 years ago.
Diphtheria is more common in parts of the world where fewer people are vaccinated, such as:
the former Soviet Union
Additional doses of the vaccination are given in a single 3-in-1 Td/IPV (tetanus, diphtheria and polio) injection.
Diphtheria is rare in the UK because babies and children have been routinely vaccinated against it since the 1940s.
The best way to avoid diphtheria while travelling is to be fully vaccinated against it.
If you're travelling to a part of the world where there may be a risk of diphtheria, you may need a booster vaccination if you were last vaccinated against it more than 10 years ago.
Since 2018, the World Health Organisation has reported a rise in cases in places including:
Places that have higher cases of diphtheria often change over time. For up-to-date information about the area you're visiting, check the TravelHealthPro country guides.
You may be able to get a combined vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and polio free on the NHS. Ask at a GP surgery.
How diphtheria is spread
Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection. It's spread by coughs and sneezes, or through close contact with someone who is infected.
You can also get it by sharing items, such as cups, cutlery, clothing or bedding, with an infected person.
Symptoms of diphtheria
Symptoms usually start 2 to 5 days after becoming infected.
Symptoms of diphtheria include:
a thick grey-white coating that may cover the back of your throat, nose and tongue
a high temperature (fever)
swollen glands in your neck
difficulty breathing and swallowing
In countries with poor hygiene, infection of the skin (cutaneous diphtheria) is more common.
If it's cutaneous diphtheria, it can cause:
pus-filled blisters on your legs, feet and hands
large ulcers surrounded by red, sore-looking skin
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