Giardiasis: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Giardiasis (say "jee-ar-DYE-uh-sus") is an infection of the intestines caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia. The illness is also called giardia (say "jee-AR-dee-uh").

Giardia can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, and nausea. You may feel sick once and then get better. Or your symptoms may come and go for some time. Some children with giardia do not grow or gain weight normally. Sometimes giardia does not cause any symptoms.

You may become infected with giardia if you eat food or drink water that is tainted with human or animal waste. In Canada and the United States, you can get giardia by drinking untreated water from wells, streams, rivers, and lakes. You also can get giardia from close contact with someone who is infected, such as from working in a daycare centre or nursing home.

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 call line 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?

  • If your doctor prescribes medicine, take it as directed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Some people with giardia have trouble digesting milk and milk products. This is called lactase deficiency. If you have this problem, avoid these foods for at least 1 month. Then slowly add them back into your daily meals as your body can handle them.
  • If you have diarrhea, try eating small amounts of bland food until you feel better. This gives your bowel a rest. But you need to take frequent sips of clear fluids like rehydration drinks to avoid dehydration.

To help prevent giardia

  • Do not drink untreated or unpurified water. If you are camping or hiking, boil or purify water from lakes and streams before you drink it.
  • When you travel in high-risk areas, drink bottled water and avoid raw fruits and vegetables. Do not drink beverages containing ice cubes.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent getting giardia from an infected person. This is very important not only after you change diapers, use the toilet, or help someone else use the toilet, but also before you prepare food.

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 call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or more belly pain.
  • You have symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little dark urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than normal.
  • You cannot keep down fluids.
  • You have new or more blood in your stools.

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

  • You are not getting better after 2 days (48 hours).

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: March 3, 2017