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Health Information For Parents
Campylobacter bacteria are one of the main causes of diarrhea and foodborne illness (“food poisoning“). They can infect the gastrointestinal tract and cause diarrhea, fever, and cramps.
Good hand-washing and food safety habits will help prevent Campylobacter infections (or campylobacteriosis), which usually clear up on their own but sometimes are treated with antibiotics.
Campylobacter (kam-pih-loh-BAK-tur) bacteria live in the intestines of many wild and domestic animals. They can pass to humans when animal feces (poop) contaminate food, meats (especially chicken), water (streams or rivers near where animals graze), and unpasteurized (raw) milk.
Once inside the human digestive system, Campylobacter infect and attack the lining of the small and large intestines. The bacteria also can affect other parts of the body. In some cases — particularly in very young kids and those with chronic illnesses or a weak immune system — they can get into the bloodstream (this is called bacteremia).
Yes. Campylobacteriosis can spread from person to person when someone comes into contact with fecal matter (poop) from an infected person (especially a child in diapers). Household pets can carry and spread the bacteria to people.
More than 2 million people get a Campylobacter infection each year, with babies younger than 1 year old, teens, and young adults most commonly affected.
Symptoms usually start 1 to 7 days after someone ingests the bacteria. The main symptoms are:
The diarrhea is watery at first, but later may contain blood and mucus. Sometimes, the abdominal pain seems worse than the diarrhea. When this happens, the infection may be mistaken for appendicitis or a problem with the pancreas.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, so kids with an infection should be watched closely. Signs of dehydration include thirst, irritability, restlessness, dizziness or drowsiness, sunken eyes, a dry or sticky mouth, dry skin, peeing less than usual, and in infants a dry diaper for more than 4–6 hours.
In a few cases, campylobacteriosis can lead to reactive arthritis (a type of joint inflammation) or, rarely, Guillain-Barré syndrome (an uncommon autoimmune disorder).
Doctors may send a stool sample to the lab to be tested for Campylobacter bacteria. They might order other lab tests, especially if there’s blood in the stool. If needed, a blood test can confirm bacteremia.
Most kids with Campylobacter infection will recover without needing medicine. Sometimes, doctors prescribe antibiotics, especially for very young children or when symptoms are severe or lasting. Kids should take the antibiotics on schedule for as long as the doctor directed to make sure the infection is gone. Do not use nonprescription medicines for diarrhea without a doctor’s OK.
After seeing a doctor, most kids with Campylobacter infections can recover at home, especially if they aren’t dehydrated. They should drink plenty of fluids for as long as the diarrhea lasts and be watched for signs of dehydration.
Kids with mild diarrhea and no dehydration should continue to eat normally and drink lots of fluids. Fruit juices and soft drinks can make diarrhea worse, though, and should be avoided. If your child is dehydrated, your doctor may recommend using an oral rehydration solution. Breastfed babies who get campylobacteriosis should continue to be breastfed throughout the illness.
Diarrhea usually stops within 2 to 5 days. Full recovery usually takes about 1 week. Sometimes, diarrhea can last longer or stop and then come back.
To avoid Campylobacter infection, use drinking water that has been tested and approved for purity (especially in developing countries) and buy only pasteurized milk and juices. While hiking and camping, don’t drink water from streams or from sources that pass through land where animals graze.
Wash your hands well before you prepare foods and after touching raw meats, especially poultry. Kill any bacteria in meats and eggs by cooking them thoroughly and eating while still warm. Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Wash cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after contact with raw meat. Clean produce — especially leafy greens — before serving.
When caring for a family member who has diarrhea, wash your hands well and often, especially before touching other people and before eating or preparing food. Clean and disinfect toilets after the person with diarrhea uses them. Also, if a pet dog or cat has diarrhea, wash your hands often and check with your veterinarian about treatment.
Call your doctor if your child:
With rest and home care, most kids with a Campylobacter infection quickly make a full recovery.
Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?
Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning – and how to prevent it.
Kids need daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Here’s how to make sure the produce you buy and prepare is safe.
Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it’s importantÂ to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.
Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection marked by severe diarrhea. Here’s how to protect your family.
Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by the bacteria salmonella. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache.
Shigella are bacteria that can infect the digestive tract and cause a wide range of symptoms, from diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, and nausea, to more serious complications and illnesses.
Washing your hands well and often is the best way to keep from getting sick. Here’s how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.
A stool culture helps doctors determine if there’s a bacterial infection in the intestines.
If you’ve ever had a bad time in the bathroom, then you know what this is.
Dehydration is when the amount of water in the body has dropped too low. Read about what causes dehydration, what it does to your body, and how to prevent it.
Amebiasis is an intestinalÂ illness transmitted when someone eats or drinks something that’s contaminated with a microscopic parasite.
Ugh. Bellyaches. Find out what causes tummy trouble in this article for kids.
Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids.
Cooking and baking are lots of fun – as long as you stay safe. Read this article for safety tips before you head into the kitchen.
Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don’t wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.
Giardiasis, one of the chief causes of diarrhea in the United States, is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite.
Yersiniosis is an uncommon infection caused by the consumption of undercooked meat products, unpasteurized milk, or water contaminated by the bacteria.
Learn why food safety is important and how you can avoid the spread of bacteria when you are buying, preparing, and storing food.
Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here’s how to protect yourself.
Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease – and they’re so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.
The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning – and how to prevent it.
Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.
Sometimes kids lose fluids and salts through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating. Here are some tips on preventing or treating dehydration.
Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it’s usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food. It mostly affects pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Here’s how to protect your family.
People often think of salmonellosis as food poisoning, but food is only one way the bacteria Salmonella can be spread.
You know they can hurt you, but what are these invisible creatures? Find out in this article for kids.
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that can help kids feel better — but only when they have certain illnesses. Find out if an antibiotic is right for your child.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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