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What is giardiasis? The 8 symptoms of parasitic tummy bug parents must look out for after outbreak at primary school

GIARDIASIS is a tummy bug caused by a tiny parasite.

It can trigger a range of symptoms, including smelly or watery diarrhoea, burps that smell like eggs, stomach pain and bloating.


The stomach bug giardia can cause diarrhoea and stomach cramps[/caption]

Some people also suffer from farting, weight loss, fatigue and nausea, according to the NHS and Mayo Clinic.

Giardiasis is usually confirmed by a stool sample and is treated with antibiotics.

Anyone with the bug should stay home from school or work until two days after their symptoms stop to avoid spreading the infection.

For most people, it goes away in about a week with treatment.

However, it can sometimes last much longer and trigger serious complications.

How do you catch giardiasis?

You can catch giardiasis in a variety of ways, and experts warn that it spreads rapidly.

Most commonly, people get it through direct contact with infected humans or animals.

But it is also possible to contract giardiasis from drinking water contaminated by the poo of infected people or animals, eating contaminated food, swimming in lakes, rivers or pools, touching contaminated surfaces or having sex with someone who is infected.

This is especially the case for unprotected anal and oral sex, the NHS warns.

The bug is common worldwide, but particularly in places with poor sanitation.

How to avoid spreading giardiasis

You are most infectious from the moment your symptoms start until two days after they have passed.

To avoid falling sick or infecting others, there are some simple steps you can take.

Firstly, wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

You should also wash any contaminated clothing or bedding separately, and on a hot wash.

Regularly cleaning toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door knobs will also help minimise spread, the NHS adds.

If you are unwell, you should not prepare food for other people.

You should also avoid sharing towels, cutlery and other utensils.

It is important to stay home from school or work until 48 hours after your symptoms pass.

But you should also avoid swimming pools until two weeks after symptoms stop.

How to feel better if you’re sick

It is easy to become dehydrated when you have giardiasis, so the NHS advises people to drink plenty of fluids.

If you’re taking in enough, your pee should be light yellow or clear.

However, if it’s dark or strong-smelling, or you are peeing less than normal, speak to a pharmacist.

“They may recommend using sachets that you mix with water to help you stay hydrated,” the NHS says.

It is also important not to drink alcohol while taking antibiotics for giardiasis as they can interfere with the medicine.

“If your baby has giardiasis, give them breast or bottle feeds as usual,” the NHS adds.

What are the complications of giardiasis?

Long-term complications of giardiasis include dehydration, malnutrition, physical and mental development delays and lactose intolerance, according to Mayo Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic adds that if giardiasis lasts a long time, it can damage the lining of the small intestine and cause gastrointestinal diseases.

“In some people with severe or chronic giardiasis, long-term inflammation triggers an autoimmune response,” the site adds.

“This means that part of your immune response to the infection becomes hyperactive and automatic, continuing even after the infection is gone.

“Some people have developed reactive arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome or new food allergies.”

When to call 111

If you have diarrhoea for more than seven days, you should book an urgent GP appointment or call NHS 111 for guidance.

This advice also applies if you have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom.

Is there an outbreak in the UK?

An outbreak has been reported at Millstead Primary School in Liverpool.

Two pupils there, aged five and six, have died, but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said the deaths are not thought to be due to the infection.

A spokesperson added: “We are aware of the sad deaths of two children who attend Millstead Primary School.

“Our thoughts are with the family, friends and school community.

“The deaths are unlikely to be due to giardia. Giardia usually causes a self-limiting gastrointestinal illness which can spread easily in households and school settings.”

Red flags to look out for in your child

Infections, like colds and flu, and tummy bugs that cause diarrhoea and vomiting, are very common in babies and children.

Thankfully, most will make a full recovery without needing treatment.

However, you should phone 999 or go to A&E if they:

  • Stop breathing or have pauses in their breathing
  • Have severe difficulty breathing, such as grunting or noisy breathing
  • Look seriously unwell – e.g. they are very pale, grey, or white, or have mottling (pale patchy skin with a purple tinge) on their arms, legs or body
  • Aren’t showing a normal colour of skin, lips and tongue – e.g. very pale, blue or purple
  • Aren’t awake and can’t be wakened, or are very difficult to waken
  • Are breathing very rapidly, even when resting and when not upset or crying
  • Vomit blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee
  • Have yellow-green or green vomit
  • May have swallowed something poisonous
  • Have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
  • Have a sudden, severe headache
  • Have a sudden, severe stomach ache
  • Are confused or not responding as usual

Ultimately, you know your child best. Always trust your instincts and seek urgent medical help if you think there’s an emergency.

Source: NHS

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