What Are the Basics of E. Coli?

What is E. coli?

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a type of bacteria which normally lives in the intestines. It can also be found in the gut of some animals.

Most varieties of E. coli are harmless and even keep your digestive tract healthy. But some strains of E. coli like STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli) can damage the lining of the intestines.

O157:H7, a type of especially bad strain of E. coli, may cause abdominal cramps, vomiting and even bloody diarrhea. It is a leading cause of acute kidney failure in children.


What cause E. coli infections?

Common causes or risk factors that may trigger E. coli infections include:

  • Ground meat which comes from more than one animal.
  • Drink unpasteurized milk which hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria.
  • Consume raw seafood products.
  • Consume dairy products or food containing mayonnaise that have been left out too long.
  • Use unclean utensils, cutting boards, or serving dishes.
  • Eat certain produce which is contaminated by the runoff from cattle farms.
  • Drink water which is polluted by human and animal feces.
  • Personal contact


What are the symptoms of E. coli infections?

You may start to feel sick 2 to 5 days after taking in the E. coli bacteria. The most common symptoms of E. coli infections are:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Sudden, severe watery diarrhea that may change to bloody stools
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Constant fatigue
  • Fever

Symptoms of severe E. coli infections may include:

  • Bruising
  • Dehydration
  • Pale skin
  • Decreased urine output
  • Bloody urine
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome (rare)

If you have the symptoms above, contact your doctor as soon as possible.


How to treat E. coli infections?

Treatments for E. coli vary from symptom to symptom, for people in mild cases of E. coli infections, treatments include:

  • Have enough rest
  • Drink enough fluids to stay hydrated and prevent fatigue
  • Avoid over-the-counter medications which can slow down your digestive system.

For people who present symptoms like diarrhea, antibiotics should be taken to lessen the symptoms.

For people who may be infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, antibiotics should not be taken.

For people who have presented hemolytic uremic syndrome, treatments include:

  • IV fluids
  • Blood transfusions
  • Kidney dialysis

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.