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C. diff

Treatments for C. diff

Doctors typically prescribe a 10- to 14-day course of one of the following oral antibiotics: metronidazole (Flagyl), Dificid (fidaxomicin), or vancomycin (Vancocin). Flagyl is usually tried first. Improvement usually happens within 72 hours after starting antibiotics, but the diarrhea may return temporarily. Another round of antibiotics is needed in about 25% of cases.

In addition to prescribed medications, treatment may include:

  • Probiotics. Available in most drug and health food stores without a prescription, probiotics are "good" bacteria that colonize in the gut. They may help keep C. diff. infection from recurring if taken along with prescribed medicines. But more research is needed to see if this can help.
  • Fluids. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids or getting intravenous fluids can help guard against dehydration from diarrhea.

Other treatments that are being studied for severe C. diff infections include fecal transplants and treatment with monoclonal antibodies.

If you think you may have a C. diff infection, speak to your doctor before using an anti-diarrhea medicine. Stopping the diarrhea could actually make the C. diff infection worse.

Preventing C. diff Infection

Once a person has C. diff infection, the infection can spread to others. C. diff spores are shed in the feces and can live on dry surfaces for a long time. A person who touches one of those surfaces can pick up the infection.

Fortunately, infection can be prevented. If you are visiting a health care facility or are in contact with someone who has the infection, good hygiene is vital. The following precautions can help keep you -- and others -- safe:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Do not rely just on alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Clean surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens regularly with chlorine bleach-based products.
  • Wash soiled clothing with detergent and chlorine bleach.
  • If you are visiting someone in a health care facility, wash your hands before and after your visit. If you use the restroom, wash your hands well to remove possible C. diff spores.
  • Don't use antibiotics unless your doctor recommends them.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 13, 2015
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