There are many different types of the E. coli bacteria. The majority of them are relatively harmless to humans, causing only temporary, mild reactions. There are some types that are more serious, leading to urinary tract infections. There are also types of E. coli that can lead to anemia or kidney failure, which can be potentially fatal. With this variety in mind, it is very important that you be aware of the symptoms of an E. coli infection. Also, you need to be able to tell the difference between simple, common symptoms and the rare, potentially fatal symptoms of the more serious types of E. coli infections.
How is E. coli contracted?
E. coli infections are the result of coming into contact with food or water contaminated by feces. This could come from unclean food sources and also contaminated water supplies; accidentally ingesting lake, pool, or river water can lead to an E. coli infection.
What are the symptoms of an E. coli infection?
Symptoms usually begin to appear within three to four days after exposure, and children are more likely to show symptoms than adults. The most common symptoms of E. coli infections are:
- Diarrhea that starts out watery and then becomes bloody
- Severe stomach cramps and tenderness
- Nausea and vomiting
These are very typical symptoms and should not be considered serious. Most people recover within a week and do not need to visit a doctor. If your symptoms continue past a week and then you start to notice the symptoms listed below, then that is your cue to see your doctor. The more serious and potentially harmful types of E. coli can cause severe bleeding and problems with your kidneys; left untreated, your E. coli infection could potentially lead to kidney failure, which is fatal.
Luckily, these serious strains cause some very unusual symptoms, so it should be easy to figure out whether you have an infection that is serious or one that will simply run its course. The serious symptoms include:
- Paling of the skin
- Weakness or dizziness
- Only passing small amounts of urine
- Easily bruising
When should I contact my doctor?
If you experience any of the serious symptoms outlined above, it is very important to contact your doctor right away to avoid further complications or even death. In the meantime, always be sure to keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water, as diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Also, you should avoid taking any sort of anti-diarrhea medicine. The diarrhea symptoms are your body's way of flushing the toxins from the bacteria out.