|Read our E-Magazine|
|Receive our E-Newsletters|
|Become our Fan|
E. coli enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine from Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. It is the most common cause of travelers' diarrhea.
Traveler's diarrhea - E. coli; Food poisoning - E. coli; E. coli diarrhea; Hamburger disease
E. coli is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of humans and animals without causing any problems. However, certain types (or strains) of E. coli can cause food poisoning. One strain (E. coli O157:H7) can cause a severe case of food poisoning.
Bacteria may get into your food in different ways:
Food poisoning often occurs from eating or drinking:
Although not common, E. coli can be spread from one person to another. This may happen when someone does not wash their hands after a bowel movement and then touches other objects or someone else's hands.
Symptoms occur when E. coli bacteria enter the intestine. The time between being infected and developing symptoms is usually 24 - 72 hours.
Diarrhea that is sudden, severe, and often bloody is the most common symptom.
Other symptoms may include:
Symptoms of a rare but severe E. coli infection include:
Your health care provider will examine you for signs of food poisoning, such as pain in the stomach and signs your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should, called dehydration.
Laboratory tests of your food of your stools may be done to determine if E.coli is causing your symptoms.
You will usually recover from the most common types of bacterial gastroenteritis within a couple of days. The goal of treatment is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration.
These things may help you feel better if you have diarrhea:
Give your child fluids for the first 4 to 6 hours. At first, try 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes.
Try an over-the-counter drink, such as Pedialyte or Infalyte. Do not water down these drinks. Pedialyte is also available as a popsicle.
Watered-down fruit juice, or broth, may also help.
See also: Diarrhea in children
If you have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids because of nausea or vomiting, you may need to go to the hospital to receive fluids through a vein (IV). This is especially true for young children.
If you take diuretics, talk to your health care provider. You may need to stop taking the diuretic while you are sick. Never stop or change medications without talking to your health care provider and getting specific instructions.
Antibiotics are usually not prescribed for most common types of bacterial gastroenteritis, unless the diarrhea is extremely severe.
Do not use over-the-counter medicines to treat diarrhea without talking to your doctor first. They should not be given to children.
You usually get better in a few days, with proper fluids. Some patients may need to stay in the hospital if they become very dehydrated.
Certain types of E. coli can cause severe anemia or even kidney failure.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have:
Also call your doctor if:
Careful hand washing may be helpful. Do not drink untreated or possibly contaminated food or water. Always cook meats well, especially ground meats. Cook meats at high enough temperatures to kill bacteria.
See also: Preventing food poisoning
Schiller LR, Sellin JH. Diarrhea. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 15.