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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
What are viruses, bacteria and parasites?
Viruses, bacteria and parasites are living organisms that are found all around us. They exist in water and soil on the surfaces of foods that we eat and on surfaces that we touch, such as countertops in the bathroom or kitchen. Bacteria, viruses and parasites can cause a wide variety of illnesses, and can infect any of the organs of the body. Viruses are often responsible for respiratory illnesses (such as the common cold) and digestive illnesses (such as diarrhea). Bacteria can infect any part of the body, but often cause diarrhea when they invade the digestive tract.
What is diarrhea?
Your child is considered to have diarrhea when her bowel movements are both more frequent and looser and more watery than usual. Your child may have additional symptoms including nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, headache or fever. Some common causes of diarrhea include:
How do you come in contact with bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause diarrhea?
Common ways your child my pick up a bacteria, virus or parasite include:
Why is diarrhea a concern?
Large amounts of water are lost with the diarrhea, which can cause your child to be dehydrated. Children become dehydrated much quicker than adults, and this can lead to serious problems if fluids are not replaced and the infection treated. If your child has a severely weakened immune system, she is at risk for more serious complications. Examples of children who are high risk include:
What kinds of bacteria can cause diarrhea?
Two types of bacteria commonly cause diarrhea, including E. coli (a strain of bacteria that produces a powerful toxin that can cause a severe infection) and Salmonella (a bacteria that infects the intestines and causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection).
Ways to prevent E. Coli include:
Ways to prevent Salmonella include:
What kinds of viruses cause diarrhea?
The most common cause of severe diarrhea among children is the virus rotavirus. More specific details include:
The best ways to prevent rotavirus includes:
What are the most common parasites that cause diarrhea?
The two parasites that usually cause infection include Giardia and Cryptosporidium. More specific details on each include:
The best ways to prevent Giardia include:
The best ways to prevent Cryptosporidium include:
Are bacteria, parasites, and viruses common?
Infections caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses are relatively common.
What do I do if my child has diarrhea?
If diarrhea is caused by bacteria or parasites, it can usually be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics cannot kill viruses. Do not use anti-diarrheal medications unless recommended by your child's doctor. No matter what caused the diarrhea, you should make sure your child stays hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. If your child does have diarrhea, she should not:
Can my child get germs from food?
All food may contain some natural bacteria, and improper storage or handling gives the bacteria a chance to grow. Food can also be contaminated with bacteria from other sources that can make you ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year food-borne illnesses kill up to 9,000 people of all ages. They also cause fever, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea in almost 80 million Americans, or about one in three people.
To prevent contaminating food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:
Use caution when buying food
Store food properly
Use special precautions when preparing and cooking food
Cool and promptly store leftovers after food has been served
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”