Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What causes hemolytic uremic syndrome? 

  • Typically in children, HUS develops after a child is infected with the E. coli bacterium. E. coli may be found in contaminated food such as dairy products and meat.
  • HUS can also develop as a result of taking certain medications, or may result from a cancer present in the body, although these causes are less common.
  • Some rare cases of HUS are familial, which suggests a genetic cause.

HUS is more common during the summer months and may occur in outbreaks. Outbreaks have been reported in daycare centers, water parks, and fast food restaurants as a result of undercooked hamburger meat.

HUS is most common in younger children between 6 months and 4 years, but can occur at any age.

What are the symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome?

Each child may experience symptoms differently, but we’ve put together a list of some common ones.

Initial symptoms

The initial symptoms of HUS frequently last from one to 15 days and may include symptoms in the digestive tract such as the following:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloody or watery diarrhea
  • vomiting

Severe problems in the bowel and colon

In these cases, even if the digestive symptoms are no longer present, your child may still exhibit the following symptoms:

  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • small, unexplained bruises visible in the lining of the mouth
  • pale skin
  • dehydration

Your child may produce little urine because damaged red blood cells and other factors may clog the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, or cause lesions in the kidneys, making them work harder to remove wastes and extra fluid.

Symptoms caused by fluid retention

The body's inability to rid itself of excess fluid and waste may, in turn, cause the following symptoms:

The symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

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