Skip to content

E. Coli Infection From Food or Water

Font Size

Exams and Tests

The medical evaluation for diarrhea that may be caused by E. coli O157:H7 bacteria usually starts with a physical examination and a medical history.

During the medical history, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms, such as:

Recommended Related to First Aid

Fever Facts

A fever -- also known as a high fever or a high temperature -- is not by itself an illness. It's usually a symptom of an underlying condition, most often an infection. Fever is usually associated with physical discomfort, and most people feel better when a fever is treated. But depending on your age, physical condition, and the underlying cause of your fever, you may or may not require medical treatment for the fever alone. Many experts believe that fever is a natural bodily defense against infection...

Read the Fever Facts article > >

  • When did diarrhea begin, how long has it lasted, and how frequent are bowel movements?
  • Is there blood in the diarrhea? If so, how much?
  • Have you had chills or a fever?
  • Have you had any abdominal cramps, nausea, or vomiting?
  • Do you feel tired or irritable?
  • Have you fainted or felt lightheaded?

Infection with E. coli is easily mistaken for other conditions with similar symptoms, such as other infectious diseases.

A doctor may suspect you have E. coli infection if you have been exposed to the bacteria. During the medical history, your doctor may ask if you have:

  • Been in a day care center, school, nursing home, or other adult care institution.
  • Eaten recently at a restaurant.
  • Consumed any undercooked meat or unpasteurized milk, dairy products, or juice.
  • Had contact with anyone with recent or ongoing diarrhea.
  • Traveled recently.
  • Used antibiotics recently.

During the physical examination, a doctor will usually:

  • Take your temperature.
  • Take your blood pressure and determine your pulse rate.
  • Look at your skin color to see whether you are unusually pale.
  • Check your stomach for tenderness.
  • Perform a rectal exam to find out whether you have blood in your stool.

Doctors who suspect E. coli infection will order a type of stool culture that detects strains of E. coli. Because the bacteria can leave the body in only a few days, the sample should be obtained as soon as possible after symptoms appear.

Other tests are sometimes used when the diagnosis is unclear, but these are not yet widely available.

If a child or older adult is diagnosed with E. coli infection, he or she may be watched for development of severe blood or kidney problems. Monitoring requires blood and urine tests to measure essential elements of blood and body fluids.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
man rubbing painful knee
A visual guide.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
human lungs
Symptoms, causes, treatments.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
two male hands
Test your knowledge.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.