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Campylobacter infections in children

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Campylobacter is a form of bacteria that can trigger infections in the GI tract. It is the main cause of diarrhea among children. The common ways in which a child can acquire the infection include contaminated food especially poorly cooked chicken, household pets and unpasteurized milk. In addition, the infection can also spread via contact with others. The incubation period is usually 2-7 days.

What are the indications?

The Campylobacter infections includes symptoms such as the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Blood-streaked stools

If diarrhea is severe, it can lead to dehydration with symptoms such as excessive thirst and diminished frequency of urination. The bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and infect other organs, but this is uncommon.

What should I do?

Campylobacter infections
If diarrhea is severe, it can lead to dehydration with symptoms such as excessive thirst and diminished frequency of urination.

In case the stool is streaked with blood, a doctor should be consulted. It is important to note that children with Campylobacter infections eventually recover without any specific treatment.

Until the diarrhea settles, provide the child with more fluids to drink. Rehydration fluids are available in the market but can also be prepared at home.


Oftentimes, there are cases in which Campylobacter infections are severe. In such cases, antibiotics are required. If taken early, antibiotics such as azithromycin and erythromycin can get rid of the bacteria from the stool in 2-3 days as well as shorten the duration of the condition.

Once the doctor prescribes these medications, they should be taken as instructed. The over-the-counter medications for diarrhea can worsen the condition and must not be used if there are blood-streaked stools.

In mild cases, the condition can last for only 1-2 days. In other cases, children can recover within a week but a small percentage might have relapse or an extended illness.


In most cases, the infections are associated with direct exposure or consumption of poorly cooked poultry. Understandably, proper handling of food and preparation should be strictly observed.

  • Always wash hands thoroughly after directly handling raw poultry products. Cutting boards and utensils should be washed using water and soap. Make sure that poultry is cooked thoroughly before eating.
  • Only drink milk that has been pasteurized.
  • Some pets are carriers of Campylobacter bacteria thus family members should thoroughly wash hands after directly handling cats, dogs, birds and hamsters.
  • Carefully wash hands after changing diapers of infants with diarrhea.

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