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Giardiasis in Children: Care Instructions

The intestines


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").

This illness can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, and nausea. Your child may feel sick for a few weeks and then get better. Or the symptoms may come and go for some time. Sometimes there are no symptoms.

Your child may become infected if your child eats food or drinks water that has human or animal waste in it. In Canada and the United States, a child can get it by drinking untreated water from wells, streams, rivers, and lakes. Your child also can get sick from having close contact with someone who is infected with giardia, such as workers in a daycare centre.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?

  • If your doctor prescribes medicine, have your child take it as directed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor if your child is having problems with milk and milk products. Some children with giardia have trouble digesting milk products.
  • Give your child lots of fluids. 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 a sole source of liquids or food for more than 24 hours.
  • Watch for and treat signs of dehydration, which means that the body has lost too much water. As your child becomes dehydrated, thirst increases, and the mouth may feel very dry. Your child may have sunken eyes with few or no tears when crying. Your child may also lack energy and want to be held a lot. And your child will not need to urinate as often as usual.
  • If your child has diarrhea, offer small amounts of food when they feel like eating.
  • Do not give your child over-the-counter antidiarrhea or upset-stomach medicines without talking to your doctor first. Do not give Pepto-Bismol or other medicines that contain salicylates, a form of aspirin, or aspirin. Aspirin has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.

To help prevent giardia

  • Do not let your child drink untreated or unpurified water. If you or your child is camping or hiking, boil or purify water from lakes and streams before drinking it.
  • When your child travels in high-risk areas, have your child drink bottled water and avoid raw fruits and vegetables. Do not let your child drink beverages containing ice cubes.
  • Have your child wash their hands often to prevent getting sick from an infected person. Be sure your child washes their hands after using the toilet and before eating.

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 advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse belly pain.
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed, or feels about to faint.
  • 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 medicine or fluids.
  • Your child has new or more blood in stools.
  • Your child has new or worse vomiting or diarrhea.

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

  • Your child does 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.