Giardiasis is an infection of the intestine caused by a parasite called Giardia. This infection can spread easily to others.
A child may get infected from:
Drinking water from a stream or lake while camping or hiking is a common way to get infected with Giardia.
Symptoms usually start 1 to 2 weeks after exposure to the parasite. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of giardiasis may last 2 to 6 weeks. Sometimes they last longer. Some people with giardiasis don’t have any symptoms.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms, examine your child, and test a sample of bowel movement. Test results are usually back in 2 or 3 days.
Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic. Your child should take all of the medicine as prescribed. If your child stops taking the medicine when the symptoms are gone but before the parasite is gone from the body, the infection may come back. If your child has side effects from the medicine, contact your healthcare provider.
Taking antibiotics helps your child’s symptoms, and also help to prevent spreading the disease to others, for example, in a day care center.
Large amounts of watery diarrhea can cause dehydration. Dehydration needs to be treated by replacing lost fluids. Not getting enough fluids to replace the fluids the body is losing can be very dangerous. Talk with your healthcare provider about oral rehydrating or electrolyte drinks. Your provider can tell you how much to give your child. Your child can drink clear liquids, such as water, weak tea, bouillon, apple juice, and flat soft drinks without caffeine, like 7 Up, but your child also needs electrolyte solutions.
Your child can eat and drink normally in addition to drinking the electrolyte solutions. Eating may cause more bowel movements, but will not cause the illness to last longer. If your child is too sick to his stomach to drink, let him suck on ice chips or Popsicles.
Foods that are easiest to digest are soft foods, such as bananas, cooked cereal, rice, plain noodles, gelatin, soft-boiled eggs, toast or bread with jelly, and applesauce. Your child can go back to a more normal diet after 2 or 3 days but should avoid milk products and caffeine for a few days more. For several days also avoid fresh fruit (other than bananas), alcohol, greasy or fatty foods, highly seasoned or spicy foods, and most fresh vegetables. Cooked carrots, potatoes, and squash are fine. If eating seems to worsen the diarrhea, go back to clear liquids for a few hours. Then again try small amounts of the foods that are easy to digest.
If your child has cramps or stomach pain, a hot water bottle or electric heating pad on the stomach may help. Cover the hot water bottle with a towel or set the heating pad at low to prevent burns.
Don’t give your child medicines to treat diarrhea, such as Kaopectate, Imodium, or Lomotil. These medicines can make the illness worse by prolonging the infection.
If your child keeps having symptoms, gets worse, or gets new symptoms, tell your healthcare provider.