E. Coli Infection in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

E. coli is the name of a germ, or bacterium, that can live in your child's 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 children 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. Your child can also get the infection from eating raw fruits and vegetables or dairy products that are contaminated with the bacteria. And your child can get it from others who are infected.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • E. coli usually goes away on its own. Your child usually doesn't need antibiotics.
  • Do not use over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine if your child has diarrhea. These products include Imodium or Kaopectate Anti-Diarrheal.
  • Have your child begin eating small amounts of mild, low-fat foods, depending on how he or she feels. Try foods like rice, dry crackers, bananas, and applesauce.
  • Have your child avoid spicy foods for 2 days and dairy products for 3 days after all symptoms have stopped.
  • To prevent dehydration, give your child lots of fluids, enough so that the urine is light yellow or clear like water. This is very important if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Gastrolyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. Give these drinks as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. Do not use them as the only source of liquids or food for more than 12 to 24 hours.

To prevent E. coli infection

  • Never eat raw or undercooked ground beef. Cook beef to a temperature of at least 71° C. 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

  • Be sure your child washes his or her hands often, and always washes them after bowel movements. If your home has more than one washroom, have your child use one washroom while he or she is sick and ask the rest of your family to use the other washroom.
  • Dispose of soiled diapers and stools carefully.
  • Keep your child from contact with other children during the infection. Don't let your child go swimming.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

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

  • Your child has new or more belly pain.
  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than normal.
  • Your child cannot keep down fluids.
  • Your child has new or more blood in stools.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as bruising or swelling of the hands or feet.

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

  • Your child is not getting better after 2 days (48 hours).

Where can you learn more?

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

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