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Health Information For Parents
E. coli is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines, where it helps the body break down and digest the food we eat. But certain types (or strains) of E. coli are infectious and spread through contaminated food or water, or from other infected people or animals.
Infections due to E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria can cause severe, bloody diarrhea. Some cases can lead to serious health problems. Fortunately, most healthy people who get an infection don’t develop serious problems and recover on their own without treatment.
Most often, E. coli spreads when someone eats food that contains the bacteria. At-risk foods include:
The bacteria also can spread from person to person on unwashed hands and surfaces, by swimming in contaminated water, and from touching animals at farms or petting zoos.
Some types of E. coli bacteria make a toxin (a poisonous substance) that can damage the lining of the small intestine. This can lead to bad stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea (often with blood in it). When that happens, people can get dehydrated.
Symptoms usually start 3–4 days after a person has come into contact with the bacteria and end within about a week.
An E. coli infection is contagious for at least as long as the person has diarrhea, and sometimes longer.
Most people recover completely from an E. coli infection. But some can develop a serious kidney and blood problem called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Signs of HUS include:
HUS can be life-threatening and needs to be treated in a hospital.
A doctor might take a stool sample to look for E. coli bacteria. Blood tests may be used to check for possible complications.
Antibiotics aren’t helpful and, in fact, can be harmful. Likewise, anti-diarrheal medicines can increase the risk of complications and should not be used.
Kids with an E. coli infection should rest as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Those who become dehydrated might need to be hospitalized to get IV fluids, and those with HUS may need dialysis for kidney failure and/or blood transfusions.
While recovering from an infection, kids can return to their normal activities after two stool cultures are free of the bacteria. Don’t let kids use swimming pools or water slides until 2 weeks after all symptoms have gone away.
E. coli outbreaks have been tied to a wide variety of foods, such as fresh spinach, hamburgers, ground beef, bologna, hazelnuts, packaged cheeses, shredded lettuce, and prepackaged cookie dough.
Safe food preparation can go a long way toward protecting your family from E. coli infections:
Teach your kids the importance of regular, thorough hand washing, especially after going to the bathroom, touching animals, or playing outside, and before eating or preparing food. They should avoid swallowing water while swimming.
Call your doctor if your child has any symptoms of an E. coli infection, especially stomach pain or lasting, severe, or bloody diarrhea.
Call immediately if your child shows signs of dehydration, such as peeing less than normal, or of hemolytic uremic syndrome, especially if your child had a recent gastrointestinal illness.
Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?
Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it’s importantÂ to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it.
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.
Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease.
A stool culture helps doctors determine if there’s a bacterial infection in the intestines.
Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by the bacteria salmonella. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache.
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.
These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can help prevent them.
If you’ve ever had a bad time in the bathroom, then you know what this is.
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.
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.
Learn why food safety is important and how you can avoid the spread of bacteria when you are buying, preparing, and storing food.
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.
Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.
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.
People often think of salmonellosis as food poisoning, but food is only one way the bacteria Salmonella can be spread.
Salmonellosis is an illness caused by a bacteria found in raw food, soil, water and the bowel movements of some animals, including reptiles. Find out how to prevent this illness.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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