Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Food Poisoning Health Center

Font Size

E. Coli Infection From Food or Water: Blood and Kidney Problems - Topic Overview

Severe problems affecting the blood and kidneys may develop in a small number of people (5% to 10%) infected with E. coli O157:H7 who get sick enough to go to the hospital.1 These problems include anemia, a low number of platelets in the blood, the formation of small blood clots, and kidney (renal) failure.

Sometimes brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) complications also develop. Serious long-term damage to the kidneys and nervous system, as well as death, can occur.

Recommended Related to Food Poisoning

Understanding Food Poisoning -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Most cases of food poisoning are mild, lasting from one to three days. Since many people do not seek medical care, their food poisoning is not diagnosed.  Though your symptoms may sound suspicious, the only way to know for sure if you have food poisoning is to test the offending food or check the stool, blood, or vomit.  Chemical or toxin food poisoning can usually be diagnosed by a description of symptoms and by testing food potentially responsible for the poisoning.  

Read the Understanding Food Poisoning -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

This set of problems is known as either hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). These two conditions are now thought to be different forms of the same disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura may include:

  • Pale skin (caused by anemia).
  • Weakness or fatigue (caused by anemia).
  • Passing only small amounts of urine.
  • Small dark patches or dots on the skin (purpura).
  • Nervous system problems. Examples include:
    • Irritability.
    • Tiredness or lack of energy.
    • Seizures.
    • Coma.
    • Inability to move one side of the body.
  • Long-term nervous system complications. Examples include:

People who have been diagnosed with E. coli infection should be monitored carefully for these problems. This is especially important for children and older adults. They should have blood and urine tests rather than waiting for symptoms to develop. Monitoring should begin as soon as the diagnosis is made and continue for 2 weeks after diarrhea starts.

Risk factors

The following factors may put you at higher-than-average risk of developing blood and kidney problems from E. coli infection:

  • Being treated with antibiotics
  • Being a very young child or an elderly adult
  • Being treated with antidiarrheal medicines
  • Having bloody diarrhea
  • Having a high white blood cell count
  • Having a high fever
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:

E. Coli Infection From Food or Water: Blood and Kidney Problems Topics

Today on WebMD

turkey
Slideshow
7 Ways To Prevent Foodborne Illness
Video
 
Salmonella (Generic)
Slideshow
Is It Really Food Poisoning
Feature
 
Are Some Eggs Safer Than Others
Feature
Do You Need To Wash Bagged Salads
Video
 
Clean Your Fridge For Food Safety
Feature
Organic Food Slideshow
Slideshow
 

Explore our newly expanded FDA Center on WebMD for timely information on food safety, allergies, diabetes, vitamins & supplements, and more!

How The FDA Protects Food Safety
Slideshow
The Dangers Of E Coli
Video
 
Secrets Of Safe Grilling
Video
How Long Can You Keep Condiments
Tool
 

WebMD Special Sections