Shigellosis in Children: Care Instructions

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The digestive system

Your Care Instructions

Shigellosis is a type of food poisoning. It's caused by infection with the Shigella bacteria. It can give your child diarrhea and stomach cramps. Your child may also vomit and have a fever. These symptoms usually last 5 to 7 days.

The bacteria is spread from stool, food, or contaminated water. Your child may get infected because the bacteria are on your child's fingers and your child then puts his or her fingers in the mouth. Or your child may eat food that was touched by someone who has the infection.

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?

  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child lots of fluids a little at a time. This is especially important when your child is vomiting or has diarrhea. Give your child sips of water or drinks such as Pedialyte or Infalyte. These drinks contain a mix of salt, sugar, and minerals. You can buy them at drugstores or grocery stores. Give these drinks as long as your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. Do not use them as the only source of liquids or food for more than 12 to 24 hours.
  • Watch for and treat signs of dehydration, which means that the body has lost too much water. Your child's mouth may feel very dry. Your child may have sunken eyes with few tears when crying. Your child may lack energy and want to be held a lot. Your child may not urinate as often as usual.
  • Do not give your child over-the-counter antidiarrhea or upset-stomach medicines without talking to your doctor first. Do not give Pepto-Bismol or other medicines that contain salicylates, a form of aspirin, or aspirin. Aspirin has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Start to offer small amounts of food when your child feels like eating.

To help prevent shigellosis

  • If your child with shigellosis wears diapers, be careful with dirty ones. Wash your hands and your child's hands after you change or throw away a diaper. It's also a good idea to try to keep the child in diapers away from other children.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands after bowel movements. If your home has more than one bathroom, have your child use one bathroom and ask others to use a different bathroom.
  • Wash your and your child's hands before you eat.
  • Keep your kitchen clean. Wash your hands, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you 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 like he or she may 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.