Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a parasite (a protozoa). It is spread through contaminated food or water. The parasite causes destruction of the intestinal lining, resulting in poor absorption of food. It is commonly found in children and can spread through a day-care center or a preschool. Giardiasis can be detected by examining the stools for the parasite. Recovery occurs faster with treatment.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Symptoms occur 1–3 weeks after ingestion. This is the time it takes for the inflammation to start causing symptoms. Symptoms include sudden abdominal cramps with explosive, loose, frequent stools (2– 10 times a day); nausea; slight fever; fatigue; and weight loss. Dehydration is the most common complication.

A child should be kept home from school or day care until the infection has cleared. Hand washing is essential in preventing the spread of the infection. Medications such as metronidazole or quinacrine may be prescribed. Side effects of these medications include headache, dizziness, a metallic taste, and nightmares. Alcohol should not be taken with these medications. Fluid intake needs to be increased to prevent dehydration. A liquid diet may be needed if nausea is a problem. Other family members should be tested for the infection.

The DOs
• Keep the child home from day care or school until symptoms are gone.
• Maintain adequate fluid intake.
• Wash hands thoroughly and frequently to prevent spreading the disease.
• Use a heating pad to help relieve abdominal pain.
• Follow-up with your doctor to make sure the infection has cleared.

The DON’Ts
• Take the medication prescribed until finished.
• Don’t drink alcohol while taking the medication; severe side effects can occur.
• Don’t give medications for the diarrhea. These may mask symptoms and delay recovery.
• Don’t forget to wash your hands before you eat.
• Don’t drink water from streams or lakes when camping or traveling unless it has been purified.
• Don’t eat uncooked foods that may have been washed in contaminated water.

When to Call Your Doctor
• A high fever occurs after treatment has started.
• The medication can’t be tolerated because of the side effects.
• There are signs of dehydration such as dry wrinkled skin, coated tongue, and decreased urination.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
www.healthfinder.gov (Choose SEARCH to search by topic.)