Giardiasis is an infection in your small intestine. It’s caused
by a microscopic parasite called Giardia
lamblia. Giardiasis spreads through contact with infected people. Pet dogs
and cats also frequently contract giardia. You can also get giardiasis by eating
contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Giardia can be found all over
the world, according to the Centers for
Disease Control (CDC). However, it’s more common in overcrowded developing
countries that lack sanitary conditions and water quality control.
Are the Causes of Giardiasis?
Giardia are found in animal and human feces. They also thrive in
contaminated food, water, and soil. They can survive outside a host for long
periods of time. Accidentally consuming these parasites can lead to an
The most common way to get giardiasis is to drink water that
contains giardia. Contaminated water can be in swimming pools, spas, and bodies
of water, such as lakes. Sources of contamination include animal feces,
diapers, and agricultural runoff.
Contracting giardiasis from food is less common because heat
kills the parasites. Handling food with poor hygiene or eating produce rinsed
in contaminated water can allow the parasite to spread.
Giardiasis also spreads through personal contact. Unprotected
anal sex is one way that this infection passes from one person to another.
Changing a child’s diaper or picking up the parasite while
working in a child care center are also common methods of infection. Children
are at high risk for giardiasis because they’re likely to encounter feces when
wearing diapers or potty training.
Are the Symptoms of Giardiasis?
Some people can carry giardia parasites without experiencing any
symptoms. Symptoms of giardiasis generally show up one or two weeks after
exposure. Common symptoms include:
- diarrhea or greasy stools
- loss of appetite
- bloating and abdominal cramps
- weight loss
- excessive gas
- abdominal pain
Is Giardiasis Diagnosed?
You may have to submit one or more stool samples for testing. A
technician will check your stool sample for giardia parasites. You might also submit
more samples during treatment. Your doctor may also perform an enteroscopy.
This procedure runs a flexible tube down your throat and into your small
intestine to examine your digestive tract and take a tissue sample.
Are the Treatments for Giardiasis?
In most cases, giardiasis eventually clears up on its own. Your
doctor might prescribe medication if your infection is severe or prolonged. Most
physicians will recommend that you get treated with antiparasitic drugs, rather
than leaving it to heal on its own. Certain antibiotics are commonly used to
- Metronidazole is
an antibiotic that can cause nausea and leave a metallic taste in your mouth.
- Tinidazole often
treats giardiasis in a single dose and is as effective as metronidazole.
- Nitazoxanide is
a popular option for children because it’s available in liquid form.
- Paromomycin has
a lower chance of causing birth defects than other antibiotics, although
pregnant women should wait until after delivery before taking any medication
Complications Are Associated with Giardiasis?
Giardiasis can lead to complications such as weight loss and
dehydration from diarrhea. The infection can also cause lactose intolerance in
some people. Children under five years old who have giardiasis are at risk for
malnutrition, which can interfere with their physical and mental development.
Can I Prevent Giardiasis?
You can’t prevent giardiasis, but you can lower your risk of
getting it by thoroughly washing your hands, especially if you work in places
where germs spread easily, such as day care centers.
Ponds, streams, rivers, and other bodies of water are all
potential sources of giardia. Don’t swallow water if you go swimming in one of
these. Avoid drinking surface water unless it’s been boiled, treated with
iodine, or filtered. Bring bottled water with you when you go hiking or
When traveling in a region where giardiasis occurs, don’t drink
tap water. Even brushing your teeth with tap water should be avoided. Keep in
mind that tap water can also be present in ice and other beverages. Avoid
eating uncooked local produce.
Be cautious about sexual practices that are associated with the
spread of this infection, such as anal sex. Use a condom to reduce the chance
of contracting giardiasis.
Is the Long-Term Outlook for People with Giardiasis?
Giardiasis infections usually last about six to eight weeks, but
problems such as lactose intolerance can persist after the infection clears up.