Clostridioides Difficile (C. diff) Colitis in Children: Care Instructions

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Lower digestive system


Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) is a type of bacteria that can infect the large intestine, or colon. This can cause the colon to swell and get inflamed. When this happens, it's called C. diff colitis.

This type of colitis can cause diarrhea and belly cramps. It can also cause a fever.

The infection is most common in people who are taking antibiotics while in the hospital.

If this type of colitis gets serious, it can cause the colon to get much bigger than normal. This is called toxic megacolon. It's an emergency that needs to be treated right away. Signs of this problem include a swollen belly that hurts. They also include a fast heartbeat and a fever.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • The doctor will give your child antibiotics to treat the colitis. But it will be a different kind than the kind that caused the colitis. Give the antibiotics as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • To prevent dehydration, give your child plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until your child feels better.
  • Give your child small amounts of mild foods, if your child wants to eat.
  • To prevent the spread of C. diff, practice good hygiene. Help your child keep their hands clean by washing them well and often with soap and clean, running water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill C. diff.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse belly pain.
  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child is dizzy or lightheaded, or feels about to faint.
  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than normal.
  • Your child cannot keep down medicine or fluids.
  • Your child has new or more blood in stools.
  • Your child has new or worse vomiting or diarrhea.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.