The symptoms of E. coli infection in its early stages typically include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea. In more severe cases, the diarrhea may contain blood. While many cases of E. coli resolve themselves quickly and without any medical attention, some individuals are unable to effectively fight off the condition, and their infection becomes much more serious. In such cases, a person may experience fever, look pale, and bruise easily. It typically takes three to four days for the symptoms of E. coli to show up, though some people may experience symptoms within 24 hours of exposure, or it may take as long as a week for symptoms to develop.
One of the most significant symptoms of E. coli is diarrhea, and people who experience this symptom should watch for a trend wherein the diarrhea may seem watery at first but then eventually becomes bloody. In such cases, the individual experiencing the diarrhea should contact his or her physician immediately and refrain from taking over-the-counter medications that may aggravate the condition. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, particularly in the elderly and children, so it is important to keep individuals with this symptom well hydrated.
E. coli infection can affect some people more severely than others. If a person cannot fight off the infection, he or she may experience kidney failure. Signs of advanced E. coli infection may include an unhealthy pallor, fever, and passing very little urine. In such cases, an individual should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
The E. coli bacteria typically infect humans who come into contact with animal or human feces. Contamination of food and water can happen through normal handling, and it is not possible to identify foods or liquids that have been contaminated by E. coli simply by looking at them or smelling them. Many people contract E. coli because of contact with rare or raw meats, fruits, and vegetables.
Some experts believe that one reason E. coli is spread so easily is that many people who have the infection don’t realize that they are experiencing the symptoms of E. coli and may think that they are experiencing ordinary gastric distress. Many individuals who have this condition never realize that they have been infected and may not take appropriate cautions, such as being scrupulous about washing their hands, resulting in passing the E. coli infection on to others. As such, encouraging good hand-washing practices, particularly in those who are experiencing symptoms of digestive problems, may help to reduce E. coli infection in the general population.