Most people who have the bacteria in their bowels will have no symptoms; healthy people don’t usually get C. difficile. However, in rare cases, C. difficile can be deadly.
C. difficile causes The bacteria are found in human feces so people get infected when they touch infected surfaces and then their eyes, nose or mouth. Doctors, nurses and health care works may spread the bacteria to their patients if they don’t wash their hands. People with other illnesses or conditions and the elderly are more at risk. If you’re taking antibiotics, you’re at a greater chance of developing C. difficile diarrhea because antibiotics change the normal levels of bacteria in the colon and intestines; with fewer good bacteria, C. difficile has the chance to grow. People getting cancer chemotherapy or taking stomach ulcer drugs, called proton pump inhibitors, are also at higher risk.
C. difficile symptoms Infection with C. difficile can cause swelling in the intestinal tract which results in symptoms including fever, watery diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and/or tenderness or bloating and causes other intestinal conditions like colitis (an inflammation of the colon) and sepsis (when bacteria or toxins are found in the bloodstream and tissues). Diarrhea can lead to dehydration.
C. difficile diagnosis/tests If your physician suspects that your diarrhea is caused by antibiotic use, she may order a stool sample to be submitted for lab analysis to detect the C. difficile toxin. Several stool samples may be needed to get an accurate result. You’ll be asked to collect them in a clean container.
C. difficile treatment If your symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment but antibiotics are usually prescribed. Make sure to take the full prescription to ensure the bacteria are eliminated. In more severe cases, medication or surgery may be necessary.
C. difficile prevention Wash your hands frequently and/or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when you’re staying in or visiting a hospital and after using the toilet. If you’re in the hospital, ask all hospital staff to wash their hands before treating you and any hospital visitors to do the same when they enter your room.