E. Coli Symptoms and Causes

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It is estimated that 265,000 people contract E. Coli every year. That means that this is something we need to talk about and know about. With the holidays around the corner, now is a good time to brush up on E. Coli symptoms and causes.

E. Coli is an abbreviation for Escherichia Coli. Escherichia Colis are bacteria found in our environment, in foods, and in the intestines of animals and people.

Most strains of E.Coli are harmless, however, others can make you desperately sick. Below, you will learn about E. Coli’s symptoms and causes, as well as how to prevent it. 

E. Coli Symptoms and Causes

The first step in fighting an E. Coli infection is knowing that you actually have it. Below, you will learn the symptoms of an E. Coli infection as well as the ways you could have contracted the infection. Keep in mind that symptoms and causes can be different for different people. 

Symptoms of E. Coli

The symptoms of E.coli can vary for each person. However, there are some classic symptoms that most people will complain about. These symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea that is usually bloody
  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Low fever (101 degrees or less)

Most  E. Coli infections clear within 5 to 7 days; however, some infections can get severe, or even life-threatening. About 5% to 10% of people who are diagnosed with E. Coli will develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. 

What is Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome?

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome is also known as HUS. HUS usually develops around 7-days after you first notice symptoms. It is a condition that affects the blood and blood vessels which results in the destruction of blood platelets, a low red blood cell count, and kidney failure.

HUS results when the E. Coli toxins cross from the intestines to the bloodstream and damage your small blood vessels. Symptoms of HUS include:

  • Decreased urination
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing pink color in cheeks

If you have symptoms of HUS, it is important to seek emergency care as your kidneys could shut down. 

Causes of E. Coli

There are various causes of E. Coli infection, but it is important to note that contamination originates from nearly invisible feces particles. Exposure to the infection has resulted in the following ways:

  • Contaminated Food
  • Consumption of raw, unpasteurized milk
  • Water that has not been disinfected
  • Contact with cattle
  • Contact with feces of infected people

In addition, some foods are considered high risk for contracting the E. Coli infection. These foods include: 

  • Unpasteurized apple cider
  • Soft cheeses made from raw milk
  • Undercooked meat

People have become infected by eating undercooked hamburger, swallowing lake water while swimming, touching animals at petting zoos, and not washing their hands well after using the toilet. 

How Long Does it Take to Get Sick?

Once you have contracted the E. Coli bacteria, you will usually start feeling sick within 3 to 4 days. However, the symptoms can start as early as 1 day to as long as 10 days after the exposure.

When to Contact the Doctor

If you have diarrhea that lasts longer than 3-days, a fever higher than 102 degrees, blood in your stool, or so much vomiting you can’t hold anything down, it is time to contact a healthcare provider. 

How are E. Coli Symptoms and Causes Diagnosed?

E. Coli infections are typically diagnosed through laboratory testing of a stool sample. Labs determine if the bacteria is present in your stool. The labs will test for the presence of Shiga Toxins in your stool which detects E. Coli. 

Treatment for E. Coli

Unfortunately, an illness caused by E. Coli can’t be treated. There is no treatment to cure the infection, relieve symptoms, or prevent complications. For most people, rest and fluids are the best way to fight the infection. 

In addition to rest and fluids, you will want to avoid taking antidiarrheal medication. This is because the medication slows your digestive system down which prevents your body from getting rid of the infection. 

If the infection turns into Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, you will be hospitalized and given supportive care such as IV fluids, blood transfusions, and kidney dialysis. 

Ways to Boost Your Immune System

When you are sick, your immune system is fighting to stay afloat. Whether you have E. Coli or any other sickness, the key to getting better and feeling better is to boost your immune system.

Check out my post 18 Simple Ways to Boost Your Immune System and Natural Remedies that Really Work for ways to boost your immune system naturally. 

How to Prevent the Spread of E. Coli

E. Coli infections start when you swallow the bacteria. Newborns, children, older adults, those with a weak immune system, and pregnant women are at a greater risk of contracting the infection. 

It is found in tiny, usually invisible, particles of human or animal feces. Because you can’t see the bacteria, here are the best ways you can prevent the spread of E. Coli:

Practice Proper Hygiene

E. Coli Symptoms and Cause

Proper hygiene goes hand in hand with good handwashing. If you want to prevent the spread of E. Coli, this is when you should wash your hands:

  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom and after you change a babies’ diaper. 
  • Properly wash your hands BEFORE AND AFTER preparing or eating food. 
  • Thoroughly wash your hands after having contact with animals, including animals in your own backyard. 
  • Wash your hands before preparing a bottle and before feeding food to your infant or toddler. 
  • Wash both your infant’s pacifiers as well as your hands after touching it. 

In addition to washing your hands, follow these other proper hygiene tips:

  • Keep anything that enters your mouth or another person’s mouth clean. This includes pacifiers and teethers. 
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It needs to have at least 60% alcohol in it (Check the label). 
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under cold running water.
  • Cook your meat thoroughly. 
    • To kill harmful germs, the internal temperature for steaks and roasts should be at least 145 degrees. 
    • Beef and Pork should be cooked to a minimum of 160 degrees.
    • Always use a thermometer to check your meat. 
  • Don’t cross-contaminate food. Wash your hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat. 
  • Try not to swallow water at lakes, ponds, or pools. 

Final Thoughts

As the holidays approach, this is a perfect time for E.Coli to sneak into our food. Be sure to always wash your hands, keep your food area sanitized, and cook and store food properly. E. Coli is definitely not something you want to get! 

Another thing to think about is that when a disaster happens, diseases such as E. Coli are more prevalent. This is because of the lack of running water, the inability to store food properly, and the lack of ways to sanitize. The threat of E. Coli is very real, even in a world where we can prevent it. However, we should be prepared for a world where we can’t prevent it. How prepared are you? Start with these 30 Items You Need to Survive a Pandemic

Don’t forget to pin this E. Coli post to Pinterest so you can find it when you need it!

Have you ever had E. Coli? Share your story with me in the comments below! May God bless this world, Linda

10 thoughts on “E. Coli Symptoms and Causes

  • November 30, 2019 at 9:25 am
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    Linda ~
    “265,000 people contract E. Coli every year” seems very low!! I would venture to say that this number may just be the ones who seek medical treatment rather than the number of people who actually do succumb to the bacteria! E. Coli is a scary illness and what scares me the most is that we hear mostly about the “restaurants” where people appear to come in contact with the bacteria (same for salmonella!). Makes one not want to eat out.

    Anyone with any sort of compromised immune system and young children are more susceptible to this, of course.

    I also wonder how much of the “scare” is produced by just having more readily available information? 50 years ago, there wasn’t the intensity of news as there is now.

    For those who eat out (even infrequently): you should be aware that your local health agency conducts inspections of restaurants and eateries in your area. You may be able to get information on these inspections by newspaper or on-line. I find them helpful in deciding when and where to eat out on the occasion when I do go out. I have also kept track in the past of those local places that have bad reviews more than a time or two – just a handwritten note to myself and I didn’t keep track of places I would not go to anyway. These inspections let you know about the cleanliness of restaurants, not any diseases that are present, however. But, if I find out a restaurant has a poor inspection regarding cleanliness, I don’t want to go there!

    Reply
    • November 30, 2019 at 10:19 am
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      Hi Leanne, I bet you’re right on the 265,000 being the ones that are reported through maybe the CDC. I’m sure there are more but we can only talk about the ones reported today. I believe social media makes us more aware of the E.Coli. The restaurants scare mt too! Great idea about checking out where it’s safe to eat. Linda

      Reply
      • November 30, 2019 at 11:17 am
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        Linda ~
        It isn’t just restaurants that scare me!! They do but all of the recalls on lettuce, meats, etc., from grocery stores scares me as well!

        Reply
        • November 30, 2019 at 11:23 am
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          Hi Leanne, I just ordered some Earth Boxes, I’m going to start growing lettuce and spinach inside my home asap. Linda

          Reply
          • November 30, 2019 at 1:16 pm
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            Linda – I hope you have better luck with your boxes than I did. This spring I will try them again but in a slightly different place on my balcony.

    • December 4, 2019 at 8:10 am
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      You have a great phrase:” intensity of news”!

      Reply
      • December 4, 2019 at 9:47 am
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        Hi Wendy, I think we are all tired of reading what’s been recalled for e.coli. Good grief, we all want to stay well. Stay well, my friend, Linda

        Reply
  • November 30, 2019 at 4:56 pm
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    Linda ~ My boxes are from https://www.agardenpatch.com/products/ and called Garden Patch™ GrowBox™ Planter. The only thing that I don’t really like about them is the fertilizer patch. The boxes that I planted herbs in from starts with my own fertilizer/soil with fertilizer did pretty well but the ones I used their fertilizer ground cover on did not – I think there was too much fertilizer! Other than that, I loved that I could fill the bottom with water and they self watered.

    Reply
    • November 30, 2019 at 5:47 pm
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      Hi Leanne, now I remember that brand you told me about. My neighbor has several of the Earth Boxes, I’ll keep you posted. I’m going to buy my own garden soil and Miracle Grow fertilizer. Let’s see which one works the best. Fingers crossed, Linda

      Reply

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