Giardia and other GI Infections

Also known as: giardia infection, giardiasis, gastrointestinal infections

What are giardia and other GI infections?

A wide variety of highly contagious infectious agents can infect the gastrointestinal tract. Giardia, which is a parasite, is one of the more common, but several different types of germs (bacteria, viruses, or other parasites) can also cause illness with a wide range of symptoms.

What causes giardia and other GI infections?

Depending on the country (and its level of sanitation) that one lives in, different germs will be more common. In the USA food poisoning (toxins made by bacteria), salmonella, shigella, E. colibacteria, giardia (and cryptosporidium) caused by different parasites, as well as viruses and other bacteria are common. Illnesses most frequently results from people with the infecting germ not washing their hands before touching food other people will be eating. Poor hand washing can also result in the spread of germs through contamination of door knobs, hand railings etc. Poorly washed or cooked foods can also spread infection.

What are the symptoms/signs of giardia and other GI infections?

Symptoms vary depending on the germ causing the infection, but often include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with mucus and/or blood), cramps, bloating, gas, weight loss, dehydration, fatigue and malaise. These usually only last for a few days (but may last longer - after 2 weeks they are a symptoms of chronic diarrhea).

What are giardia and other GI infection care options?

Many infections causing diarrhea especially viruses will go away without any treatment. Supportive measures like rest and drinking a lot of fluid (preferably with electrolytes- various salts) will be all that is needed in many cases. Some GI infections will need to be treated with antibiotics.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: October 04, 2019 03:18 PM