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
- 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.
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
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.
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