E. coli enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine from Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. It is the most common cause of travellers’ diarrhea.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
E. coli is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of humans and animals without causing any problems. However, certain types (or strains) of E. coli can cause food poisoning. One strain (E. coli O157:H7) can cause a severe case of food poisoning.
Bacteria may get into your food in different ways:
- Meat or poultry may come into contact with intestinal bacteria when being processed
- Water that is used during growing or shipping may contain animal or human waste
- Improper food handling or preparation
Food poisoning often occurs from eating or drinking:
- Any food prepared by someone who did not wash their hands properly
- Any food prepared using unclean cooking utensils, cutting boards, or other tools
- Dairy products or food containing mayonnaise (such as coleslaw or potato salad) that have been out of the refrigerator too long
- Frozen or refrigerated foods that are not stored at the proper temperature or are not reheated properly
- Raw fish or oysters
- Raw fruits or vegetables that have not been washed well
- Raw vegetable or fruit juices and dairy products
- Under-cooked meats or eggs
- Water from a well or stream, or city or town water that has not been treated
Although not common, E. coli can be spread from one person to another. This may happen when someone does not wash their hands after a bowel movement and then touches other objects or someone else’s hands.
Symptoms occur when E. coli bacteria enter the intestine. The time between being infected and developing symptoms is usually 24 – 72 hours.
Diarrhea that is sudden, severe, and often bloody is the most common symptom.
Other symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach cramping
- Vomiting (rare)
Symptoms of a rare but severe E. coli infection include:
- Bruises that happen easily
- Pale skin
- Red or bloody urine
- Reduced amount of urine
Signs and tests:
Your health care provider will examine you for signs of food poisoning, such as pain in the stomach and signs your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should, called dehydration.
Laboratory tests of your food of your stools may be done to determine if E.coli is causing your symptoms.
You will usually recover from the most common types of bacterial gastroenteritis within a couple of days. The goal of treatment is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration.
These things may help you feel better if you have diarrhea:
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of clear fluids every day. Water is best.
- Drink at least 1 cup of liquid every time you have a loose bowel movement.
- Eat small meals throughout the day, instead of 3 big meals.
- Eat some salty foods, such as pretzels, soup, and sports drinks.
- Eat some high potassium foods, such as bananas, potatoes without the skin, and watered-down fruit juices.
- Give your child fluids for the first 4 to 6 hours. At first, try 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes.
- Try an over-the-counter drink, such as Pedialyte or Infalyte. Do not water down these drinks. Pedialyte is also available as a popsicle.
- Watered-down fruit juice, or broth, may also help.