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Clostridium Difficile Infection In Children
What you need to know about a Clostridium difficile infection (CDI):
Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, are bacteria. Many types of bacteria live inside your child's colon in a healthy balance. If C. diff bacteria grow rapidly, the balance is lost. This can lead to infection. Antibiotic use is the most common cause of CDI. Antibiotics may upset the normal balance of bacteria in the colon. The bowel movement of a person with a CDI contains C. diff. infected people who do not wash their hands after having a bowel movement can spread C. diff. The bacteria can live a long time on surfaces your child touches, such as toys or the tops of tables.
Signs and symptoms of a CDI:
- Diarrhea several times each day
- Foul-smelling diarrhea
- Blood, mucus, or pus in your child's bowel movements
- Dehydration from diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cramps in your child's abdomen
- A fever
Seek care immediately if:
- Your child has a fever and stomach cramps that get worse, or do not go away.
- Your child's abdomen is hard or feels swollen.
- Your child has black or bright red bowel movements.
- Your child vomits blood.
- Your child is short of breath or feels like he or she is going to faint.
- Your child has any of the following signs of dehydration:
- Dizziness, weakness, or extreme sleepiness
- Dry mouth, cracked lips, or feeling very thirsty
- Fast heartbeat or rapid breathing
- Very little urine or no urine
- Sunken eyes
- Fussiness or sunken fontanelles (soft spots) in babies
Contact your child's healthcare provider if:
- Your child has a fever.
- Your child's signs and symptoms come back after treatment.
- Your child cannot eat or drink.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
The goal of treatment is to restore the healthy balance of bacteria in your child's colon. This should help stop the diarrhea. Antibiotics help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. If antibiotics caused the CDI, your child may need to switch to a different antibiotic.
Help your child manage or prevent a CDI:
- Have your child wash his or her hands often. Have your child use germ-killing soap and warm, running water. Alcohol-based hand rubs do not kill C. diff bacteria. Have your child wash well after he or she uses the toilet, diapers a child, or prepares or serves food. Tell anyone who touches your child to wear gloves and wash their hands.
- Clean surfaces with bleach. Clean tabletops, desks, and other surfaces before anyone else touches or uses them. Clean with chlorine-based disinfectants, such as household bleach.
- Prevent the spread of C. diff. Do not let your child share any items with others. This includes toys, clothing, and dishes. Use as many disposable items as you can, such as paper plates. Do this until your child's diarrhea has stopped.
- Ask about probiotics. Probiotics are also called good bacteria. They can help protect your child from harmful bacteria. If your child develops more than one CDI, probiotics may help prevent more infections. Ask your child's healthcare provider if probiotics are right for your child. He or she may be able to eat yogurt or other foods high in probiotics. Your child's provider may instead recommend a pill or liquid form.
- Have your child drink more liquids to prevent dehydration. Your child may also drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar needed to replace body fluids. Ask your child's healthcare provider where to get an ORS and how much he or she should drink.
What you need to know about correct antibiotic use:
- Give your child his or her antibiotic as directed. Do not skip a dose of your child's antibiotic. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotic, even if he or she feels better. Give your child the entire dose of antibiotic unless a healthcare provider tells you to stop.
- Get rid of any antibiotics your child did not use. Ask your child's healthcare provider or pharmacist how to get rid of the antibiotics. Do not share your child's antibiotic with another person. Do not give your child an antibiotic from another illness without talking to a healthcare provider.
- Prevent infections caused by bacteria. This will help prevent your child's need for an antibiotic. Ask about vaccines that your child needs. Wash your hands and your child's hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs.
- Ask your child's healthcare provider how to manage his or her symptoms without antibiotics. Your child's healthcare provider can recommend other treatments based on your child's illness. An example includes over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen.
Follow up with your child's healthcare provider within 1 to 2 days:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.