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E. Coli Infection: Care Instructions


E. coli is the name of a germ, or bacterium, that can live in your stomach and intestines. Some types of E. coli can cause illness and symptoms such as bloody diarrhea and cramps.

Symptoms of E. coli infection usually end in about 1 week with no further problems. But some people have severe blood and kidney problems.

People in Canada most often get an E. coli infection from eating meat that has been contaminated with E. coli. You can also get the infection from eating raw fruits and vegetables or dairy products that are contaminated with the bacteria. And you can get it from others who are infected.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • E. coli usually goes away on its own. You usually don't need antibiotics.
  • Do not use over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine if you have diarrhea. These products include Imodium or Kaopectate Anti-Diarrheal.
  • When you feel like eating again, start with small amounts of food.
  • To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better. Soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea. These kinds of drinks should not be used to rehydrate. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.

To prevent E. coli infection

  • Never eat raw or undercooked ground beef or pork. Cook ground meat to a temperature of at least 71 C (160 F). Always use a meat thermometer. Ground beef should be cooked until all pink colour is gone.
  • Cut open restaurant and home-cooked hamburgers to make sure that they have been completely cooked. The juices should be clear or yellowish, with no trace of pink.
  • When preparing food, wash your hands often with hot, soapy water, especially after handling raw meat.
  • Always wash cooking tools, cutting boards, dishes, countertops, and utensils with hot, soapy water right after they have come into contact with raw meat. Do not put cooked meat back onto a plate that has held raw meat unless you have thoroughly washed the plate.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and for other food items.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from vegetables, fruits, breads, and other foods that have already been prepared for eating.
  • Use only pasteurized milk, dairy, and juice products. Check product labels for the word "pasteurized." Juice made from concentrate is the same as pasteurized.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating them.

To prevent spreading E. coli

  • Wash your hands often, and always wash them after bowel movements or changing diapers. If your home has more than one bathroom, use one bathroom while you are sick and ask the rest of your family to use the other bathroom.
  • Dispose of soiled diapers and stools carefully.
  • Ask your doctor when it will be okay to handle food or work in a daycare centre or other institution.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than normal.
  • You cannot keep down medicine or fluids.
  • You have new or more blood in stools.
  • You have new or worse vomiting or diarrhea.
  • You have new swelling.
  • You are very pale.
  • You have new bruises or blood spots under your skin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.