Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Clostridium Difficile Colitis: Care Instructions
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Clostridium Difficile Colitis: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Clostridium difficile (also called C. difficile) are bacteria that can cause swelling and irritation of the large intestine, or colon. This inflammation is also called colitis. It can cause diarrhea, fever, and belly cramps.

You may get C. difficile colitis if you take antibiotics. The infection is most common in people who are taking antibiotics while in the hospital. It is also common in older people in hospitals and nursing homes.

Severe disease could cause the colon to swell to many times its normal size (toxic megacolon). This can cause death and needs emergency treatment. You may have a swollen belly that is painful or tender, a rapid heartbeat, and a fever.

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?

  • Your doctor may give you antibiotics to treat C. difficile colitis. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, you will be given a different antibiotic than the one that caused your infection. Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids until you feel better. 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.
  • Begin eating small amounts of mild foods, if you feel like it. Try yogurt that has live cultures of lactobacillus (check the label).
    • Avoid spicy foods, fruits, alcohol, and caffeine until 48 hours after all symptoms go away.
    • Avoid chewing gum that contains sorbitol.
    • Avoid dairy products (except for yogurt with lactobacillus) while you have diarrhea and for 3 days after symptoms go away.
  • To prevent the spread of C. difficile, practice good hygiene. Keep your hands clean by washing them well and often with soap and clean, running water. This is most important after you use the toilet and before you make and eat food. Remind everyone in your home to also wash their hands often. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill C. difficile.
  • After the diarrhea is better, you are much less likely to spread C. difficile. But you still need to take extra care to keep your home clean.
    • Clean bathroom surfaces with a bleach solution to kill any C. difficile spores. To dilute household bleach, follow the directions on the label.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

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

  • You have a fever over 38.3°C or shaking chills.
  • You feel light-headed or have a fast heart rate.
  • You pass stools that are almost always bloody.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes, a dry mouth, and pass only a little urine.
  • You have severe belly pain with or without bloating.
  • You have severe vomiting and cannot keep down liquids.
  • You are not passing any stools or gas.

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

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter H511 in the search box to learn more about "Clostridium Difficile Colitis: Care Instructions".

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.