E. Coli Bacteria Infection: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes & Prevention

E. coli (Escherichia coli), is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals and is the main cause of diarrheal disease. Infection with E. coli is generally not serious, but can be serious in some cases.

Most types of E. coli are harmless and infection during pregnancy can cause nausea and cramps, but this strain can cause a more severe illness. Symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. They usually begin within a week of eating contaminated food and last four to seven days.


While many of us associate E. coli with food poisoning or diarrhoea, it’s something that most of us suffer from occasionally. But food poisoning isn’t the only cause of sickness. For the less than literate amongst us, E. coli is often confused with Escherichia coli. E. coli is a common bacteria that you are likely to have encountered a few times if you eat regularly. Its main role is to digest food, which it does by turning starch into sugars, generating lactic acid. But it’s also one of the most common cause of food poisoning.

If the bacteria breaks into your bowel wall and travels into your bloodstream, you could be susceptible to a more serious infection. At that stage, E. coli can generate an internal toxins called shiga toxin. The more E. coli that are in your system at any one time, the more toxins will be produced. The E. coli-induced shiga toxin produces an attack in the bowel that triggers bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps. The loss of fluids in the body can lead to shock, and you could lose your life if not treated immediately.

How Do You Get Infected?

You can become infected when you swallow even a small amount of E. coli bacteria. Most of us are exposed to this bacteria at some point in our lives, usually through under-cooked meat, contaminated water, or contaminated produce.


Diarrhea is the most common complication from E. coli infection. It can produce severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Other symptoms include fever, chills, and a headache. Severe cases can require hospitalization.

E. coli infection in children is especially dangerous. It is typically the cause of infection in young children and elderly adults. Older adults are more susceptible to developing life-threatening complications from the disease, such as kidney failure.

Anyone can become infected with E. coli bacteria, but young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are the ones who are at the highest risk for severe illness and death.


You’ll probably start to feel ill 2 to 5 days after you’ve taken in the E. coli bacteria, and keep feeling ill for at least another week. The infection could lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting. It can also cause life-threatening infections of the blood or joints and in adults, kidney failure.

The CDC cautions against high-risk behaviors such as under-eating and drinking alcohol, both of which increase the risk of infection.

Children should not take more than one bite of any of the recalled soft cheeses, the agency said.

If you have one of the recalled soft cheeses in your fridge, throw it away. Do not eat it. And see a health care provider if you think you became ill.


The only way your doctor can know for sure if you have an E. coli infection is to test your blood. They can’t tell how you are infected by symptoms like cramping, fatigue and fever, however.

You have to have blood in your stool to be tested, said Jon Zeigler, Ph.D., director of the Medical Microbiology Laboratory at the Oregon Health and Science University.

One way to find out if you have an E. coli infection is to eat a very bland meal for 24 hours, he said.

“Most people can recover on their own,” Zeigler said. “But it’s usually really severe.”

For some types of E.coli associated with diarrhea, such as the watery travelers’ diarrhea, antibiotics should be avoided or strongly considered as a part of treatment (Deng et al. 2012). For cholera, given the poor resistance of the Vibrio cholerae strain to current antimicrobials, probiotics are a strong alternative therapy. In some cases, however, probiotics may worsen cholera disease and warrant alternatives.


One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family against E. coli is to wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, handling raw meat, and changing diapers, as well as before preparing and eating food. If you or anyone you know are sick with diarrhea, make sure they’re washing their hands and thoroughly cooking any poultry, beef, or pork that they eat, according to the CDC.

It is also important to avoid coming into contact with any vegetables that might be contaminated.

If you’ve been drinking out of contaminated water, do not drink it for at least two days.

If you become sick after eating contaminated food, you should also avoid drinking unpasteurized milk or raw juices. Even though pasteurization kills bacteria like E. coli, the heat from pasteurization can also kill E. coli or cause it to grow in some cases, according to the CDC. In those cases, you should avoid any dairy products or juices that may have come from unpasteurized products.

Avoid under-cooked or raw beef, pork, and lamb.

Raw beef, pork, and lamb should always be cooked thoroughly until both are gray, thickened, and no longer pink. Salmonella and E. coli are often associated with under-cooked meat, which is why the CDC recommends cooking all meat to at least 160 degrees.

Bottom Line

while E. Coli Infection is very common, it is much easier to treat, especially with proper use of an Imodium.


The report also states that the condition is quite severe when the symptoms appear after 14 days. To avoid these situations and the growth of this type of bacteria it is important to ensure that the stomach stays empty for at least 8 hours before and after the meal. Furthermore, this is also a good idea to avoid processed food which contain a lot of salt in them.

However, most people will not see a doctor immediately when they suspect that they have eaten contaminated food. This is for two reasons. Firstly, they feel very unwell and this may be attributed to the stomach ache or even the vomiting they are experiencing. Secondly, they don’t feel confident that they will get the right medical advice or treatment. The solution to this is to see a doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to give the correct advice on what has caused the problem. They will be able to recommend the best ways of treating this condition and put in place some sort of preventative measures. In this case, people should see their doctor immediately, this should not take a day or more.