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E. Coli Infection From Food or Water

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Home Treatment

Home treatment of infection with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria consists of keeping yourself comfortable and preventing the spread of the bacteria. If you aren't infected, take steps to prevent infection.

If you think that you or someone in your care may be infected with E. coli, contact a doctor immediately. Do not treat diarrhea symptoms with any nonprescription or prescription medicines.

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Home treatment for diarrhea or bloody diarrhea caused by E. coli infection

  • Do not use nonprescription antidiarrheal products if you have bloody or non-bloody diarrhea that you suspect may be caused by E. coli infection. These products include Imodium and Maalox Anti-Diarrheal. Do not take other medicines that you have left over from a previous illness.
  • Take frequent, small sips of water or a rehydration drink to replace lost fluids and help prevent dehydration. Because dehydration can be more dangerous in babies, call your doctor if you think your baby may be dehydrated. Your stomach cannot handle too much fluid at one time. Seek medical care if you develop signs of moderate dehydration, which include:
    • Dry appearance inside the mouth.
    • Eyes that don't tear.
    • Low output of dark brown urine.
    • Lightheadedness.

Especially in children and adults age 65 and older, watch for symptoms of severe blood and kidney problems, such as fever, weakness, pale skin, or passing small amounts of urine. If any of these symptoms develop, see a doctor immediately.

Tips for protecting yourself against E. coli infection from contaminated food and water

  • Cook ground beef to a temperature of at least 160°F (71°C). Ground beef should be cooked until all pink color is gone, but don't rely only on color. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Cut open restaurant and home-cooked hamburgers to ensure that they have been completely cooked. The juices should be clear or yellowish, with no trace of pink. Never eat raw or undercooked ground beef.
  • When preparing food:
    • Wash your hands often with hot, soapy water, especially after handling raw meat.
    • Always wash cooking tools, cutting boards, dishes, counter tops, and utensils with hot, soapy water immediately after they have come into contact with raw meat. Do not put cooked meat back onto a plate that has held raw meat unless the plate has been thoroughly washed with soap and water and dried.
    • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and for other food items.
    • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from vegetables, fruits, breads, and other foods that have already been prepared for eating.
  • Use only pasteurized milk, dairy, and juice products. Check product labels for the word "pasteurized." Juice made from concentrate is the same as pasteurized.
  • Use only treated (chlorinated) drinking water.
  • Travelers to countries where the water supply may not be safe should be especially careful not to put ice in their drinks or drink tap water. All water consumed should be boiled or bottled. Eat meals when they are hot. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables, except those with skin that you peel yourself.
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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.
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