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Infectious Colitis


What is infectious colitis?

Infectious colitis is swelling and irritation of your colon caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses.

What are the symptoms of infectious colitis?

  • Diarrhea 3 or more times in a day
  • Small bowel movements that contain blood or mucus
  • Headache or body aches
  • Low-grade fever (less than 101.0 F)
  • Abdominal pain

What increases my risk for infectious colitis?

  • You live or work in a skilled nursing facility.
  • You work in a daycare center, or your child goes to daycare.
  • You do not wash your hands after using the bathroom or before handling food.
  • You travel to an area that has poor sanitation.
  • You drink contaminated water or eat contaminated food.
  • You have recently taken antibiotics.
  • You have a weak immune system.

How is infectious colitis diagnosed and treated?

A sample of your bowel movement may be tested to identify the bacteria, virus, or parasite causing your symptoms. You may receive medicine to treat the bacteria, virus, or parasite.

How can I care for myself?

  • Drink liquids to help prevent dehydration. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may need to drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS contains a balance of water, salt, and sugar to replace body fluids lost during diarrhea. Ask what kind of ORS to use, how much to drink, and where to get it.
  • Do not take medicine to stop your diarrhea. These medicines may make your symptoms last longer.

How can I prevent infectious colitis?

  • Clean thoroughly. Wash your hands in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after you handle food. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a diaper, or touch an animal. Rinse fruits and vegetables in running water. Clean cutting boards, knives, countertops, and other areas where you prepare food before and after you cook. Wash sponges and dishtowels weekly in hot water.
  • Cook food all the way through. Cook eggs until the yolks are firm. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat is heated to a temperature that will kill bacteria. Do not eat raw or undercooked chicken and turkey, seafood, or meat.
  • Store food properly. Refrigerate or freeze fruits and vegetables, cooked foods, and leftovers.
  • Drink safe water. Drink only treated water. Do not drink water from ponds or lakes, or from swimming pools that do not contain chlorine. Drink bottled water when traveling.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are urinating little or not at all.
  • You have tiredness or body weakness.
  • You have a headache, dizziness, or confusion.
  • You have irregular or fast breathing, fast or pounding heartbeat, and low blood pressure.
  • You have sudden weight loss.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms last for more than 30 days.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.