Giardiasis is an infection affecting the digestive system due to the parasites called as giardia intestinalis. Diarrhea is the typical symptom of giardiasis. The other symptoms that can occur include the following:
- Abdominal cramping
- Foul-smelling belching and flatulence
- Nausea or feeling sick
- Fatigue or severe tiredness
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss due to malnutrition
The individual can also experience vomiting and a mild fever of 37-38 degrees C but these are uncommon. Even though these symptoms are often undesirable, giardiasis does not pose as a threat to health and can be readily managed.
When to seek further care
A doctor should be consulted if symptoms such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and bloating last for more than a week especially if the individual recently had a trip abroad.
In case an infant or child has episodes of diarrhea that lasts for more than 2-3 days or has more than 6 episodes of diarrhea in the last 24 hours, it is best to set an appointment with a doctor.
The doctor might request a stool sample to the analyzed in the laboratory to confirm it is giardiasis. In most cases, up to 3 stool samples are taken over a number of days to confirm the condition.
Treatment for giardiasis
It is important to note that giardiasis is typically managed with antibiotics that eliminate the giardia parasite. In most circumstances, medications such as metronidazole are used.
The usual side effect of metronidazole is nausea. In uncommon cases, some individuals might also feel sleepy or dizzy. Once this occurs, it is best to avoid driving or utilizing machinery or power tools.
Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while using metronidazole or 48 hours after completing the dose. Mixing alcoholic beverages with these types of medications can make the side effects worse. If an individual is diagnosed with giardiasis, other family members might be required to undergo treatment. This is recommended as a precautionary measure in case they are also infected. The doctor can determine if treatment is needed.
How does giardiasis spread?
Most individuals can become infected with giardiasis by drinking water that has been contaminated with the giardia parasite or via direct exposure with an infected individual.
The infection can also be passed on if the infected individual does not wash hands regularly after using the toilet and then prepares food for others. Always bear in mind that food can also be contaminated if washed in contaminated water.
Good hygiene must be observed such as regular washing of hands using water and soap. In addition, it is vital to take care when drinking water in countries with poor levels of sanitation to reduce the risk for acquiring giardiasis.
Who are at risk?
Giardiasis is present in any corner of the world but quite prevalent in countries where access to clean water is limited and sanitation is poor. The condition can affect individuals of all ages but quite common among young children and their parents. This is due to changing diapers which increases the risk for infection.