Clostridium difficile (C. diff) is a bacteria that can cause diarrhea in children. A child can have these bacteria in his intestines without getting sick. However, if he has too many, they can damage the colon (the large intestine) and cause mild diarrhea or a serious, even life-threatening infection.
Your child can get C. diff bacteria from the bowel movements of an infected person. The bacteria can pass from one person to another if someone has touched a surface that has C. diff on it and does not wash his hands. The bacteria can live for many hours on surfaces such as toys, toilet seats, door knobs, and bathroom fixtures.
Your child may get a C. diff infection if he has been taking antibiotics to treat an infection caused by other bacteria. Taking antibiotics can upset the natural balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in the intestines. When an antibiotic kills too many “good” bacteria, it may let C. diff bacteria grow in your child’s intestines and cause an infection.
Your child is more likely to get a C. diff infection if:
Symptoms may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your child’s bowel movements may be tested for bacteria. These tests can also show which antibiotics are best to treat the infection.
For mild symptoms caused by an antibiotic your child has been taking for another infection, the provider may have your child stop taking the medicine that caused this problem. For more severe symptoms, your child may need to be treated with an antibiotic that kills C. diff. He may need to stay in the hospital with IV medicine and fluids.
If the lining of your child’s colon has been badly damaged by the infection, he may need surgery to remove the injured part of the colon.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Make sure that your child takes all medicines exactly as prescribed. If your child stops taking the antibiotic too soon, the infection may come back.
If your child has severe diarrhea, the body can lose too much fluid and your child can get dehydrated. Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially for children. Your child may also be losing minerals that the body needs to keep working normally. Your child needs to drink enough liquid to replace the fluids and minerals he has lost. Try to get your child to drink extra fluids. One way to tell if your child is drinking enough liquid is to look at the color of your child’s urine. It should be very light yellow.
Ask your child’s healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
C. diff can be a serious health threat to you and the people around you. It cannot be treated with the usual antibiotics used to treat infections. Prevention is very important. Do not use antibiotic medicine for viral colds and flu.
If your child has C. diff, he can avoid passing it to others by cleaning his hands well with soap and water. Everyone who comes in contact with your child must also clean their hands before and after seeing him.
To avoid getting a C. diff infection:
If your child is at high risk for infection, he may be given medicine that may help keep a healthy balance of bacteria in his colon. Research continues on substances like probiotic bacteria to see if they can help prevent or treat C. diff.