DESCRIPTIONGiardiasis is bowel inflammation caused by a parasite found in contaminated water. The gastrointestinal tract, especially the small bowel, is involved. Giardiasis can affect both sexes, all ages, but is more common in children than in adolescents or adults.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSSudden diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Some children have only mild diarrhea and indigestion.
Loose, bulky, bad-smelling stools.
Infestation of a microscopic parasite, giardia lamblia. Giardia parasites enter the child's body through food or water, and multiply in the small intestine. Local inflammation, causing diarrhea and other symptoms, occurs in 1 to 3 weeks.
RISK FACTORSCrowded or unsanitary living conditions, especially a substandard water supply and poor sanitation system.
Drinking stream water while camping.
Previous stomach surgery. Stomach acid normally provides some protection against this infection.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Boil water that is not known to be safe, or treat it with commercial chemical purifiers.
Avoid serving your family uncooked foods that may have been rinsed in contaminated water.
Wash your hands often, especially before meals, and teach your child to wash hands, to avoid catching infection from other persons.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor. Tell your doctor if your child has been traveling or camping in the previous month.
Laboratory stool studies to detect parasites.
Chronic bowel inflammation.
Malabsorption and weight loss.
Spontaneous recovery in about a month for most children. Medication hastens recovery.
Prevention is the best treatment. Urge your child to be cautious when away from normal water supplies.
Your child should practice careful personal hygiene during an episode of diarrhea or if around someone who has diarrhea.
MEDICATIONDon't give your child non-prescription drugs for gastrointestinal problems. These can mask symptoms.
Your doctor may prescribe an anti-parasite drug, metronidazole, which is very effective. Alcohol interacts with metronidazole to cause abdominal cramps and nausea, so your child should not drink alcohol during treatment.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
DIET & FLUIDS
Your child should maintain an adequate fluid intake (at least 8 glasses of water or liquid a day).
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, after all symptoms subside.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of giardiasis.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.