Overview Of E. Coli Infection
E. Coli infection is swelling (inflammation) of the small intestine from Escherichia coli (E. Coli) bacteria. It is the most common cause of travelers’ diarrhea.
Commonly Associated With
Traveler’s diarrhea – E. coli; Food poisoning – E. coli; E. coli diarrhea; Hamburger disease
Causes Of E. Coli Infection
E. Coli is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. Most of the time, it does not cause any problems. However, certain types (or strains) of E. Coli can cause food poisoning. One strain (E. Coli O157:H7) can cause a severe case of food poisoning.
Bacteria may get into your food in different ways:
- Meat or poultry may come into contact with normal bacteria from the intestines of an animal while it is being processed.
- Water used during growing or shipping may contain animal or human waste.
- Food may be handled in an unsafe way during transport or storage.
- Unsafe food handling or preparation may occur in grocery stores, restaurants, or homes.
E. Coli infection can occur after eating or drinking:
- Food prepared by a person who did not wash hands well
- Food prepared using unclean cooking utensils, cutting boards, or other tools
- Dairy products or food containing mayonnaise (such as coleslaw or potato salad) that have been out of the refrigerator too long
- Frozen or refrigerated foods that are not stored at the proper temperature or are not properly reheated
- Fish or oysters
- Raw fruits or vegetables that have not been washed well
- Raw vegetable or fruit juices and dairy products
- Undercooked meats or eggs
- Water from a well or stream, or city or town water that has not been treated
- Although not common, E Coli can be spread from one person to another. This may happen when someone does not wash their hands after a bowel movement and then touches other objects or someone else’s hands
Symptoms Of E. Coli Infection
Symptoms occur when E Coli bacteria enter the intestine. Most of the time symptoms develop 24 to 72 hours after being infected. The most common symptom is sudden, severe diarrhea that is often bloody.
Other symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach cramping
- Vomiting (rare)
Symptoms of a rare but severe E Coli infection include:
- Bruises that happen easily
- Pale skin
- Red or bloody urine
- Reduced amount of urine
Exams & Tests
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. A stool culture can be done to check for disease-causing E. Coli.
Treatment Of E. Coli Infection
Most of the time, you will recover from the most common types of E. Coli infection within a couple of days. The goal of treatment is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration. Getting enough fluids and learning what to eat will help keep you or your child comfortable.
You may need to:
- Manage the diarrhea
- Control nausea and vomiting
- Get plenty of rest
- You can drink oral rehydration mixtures to replace fluids and minerals lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Oral rehydration powder can be purchased from a pharmacy. Be sure to mix the powder in safe water.
- You can make your own rehydration mixture by dissolving one-half teaspoon (3 grams) of salt, one-half teaspoon (2.5 grams) of baking soda, and 4 tablespoons (50 grams) of sugar in 4¼ cups (1 liter) of water.
- You may need to get fluids through a vein (IV) if you have diarrhea or vomiting and cannot drink or keep enough fluids in your body. You will need to go to your provider’s office or the emergency room.
- If you take diuretics (water pills), talk to your provider. You may need to stop taking the diuretic while you have diarrhea. Never stop or change medicines without first talking to your provider. You can buy medicines for at E. Coli infection the drugstore that can help stop or slow diarrhea. Do not use these medicines without talking to your provider if you have bloody diarrhea or a fever. Do not give these medicines to children.