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E. coli (Escherichia coli) is the name of a germ, or bacterium, that lives in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. There are many types of E. coli, and most of them are harmless. But some can cause bloody diarrhea. Some strains of E. coli may also cause severe anemia or kidney failure, which can lead to death. Other strains can cause other infections.
A common type of E. coli infection causes bloody diarrhea and cramps. People in Canada most often get this infection by eating meat or other foods that have been infected with the bacteria.
If you get an E. coli infection from food, you may have symptoms like bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually start 3 or 4 days after coming in contact with E. coli. But some people don't notice any symptoms.
An E. coli infection usually goes away on its own. Your main treatment is to make yourself comfortable and drink sips of water. Diarrhea causes the body to lose more water than usual. This can lead to dehydration, which is especially dangerous for babies and older adults. Taking frequent, small sips of water will help prevent dehydration.
If you have bloody diarrhea that may be from an E. coli infection, don't take diarrhea medicine or antibiotics. These medicines can slow down the digestion process. This can allow more time for your body to absorb the poisons made by the E. coli. Call your doctor instead.
In some people, the infection causes serious problems with the blood and kidneys. These people may need blood transfusions or dialysis.
To prevent intestinal tract infections from E. coli:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Y224 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About E. Coli Infections".
Current as of: February 11, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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