Symptoms of C. Difficile Infections

Young Patient with Stomach Ache
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Clostridium Difficile is a bacteria that can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

C. difficile, or C. diff for short, is especially common in children who have recently been on antibiotics for a prolonged period of time. In addition to taking antibiotics, children are at increased risk for C. difficile infections if they have been in the hospital, especially for a long period of time, have a chronic illness, and/or a problem with their immune system.

Clostridium Symptoms

In addition to diarrhea, C. difficile can lead to C. difficile colitis, with symptoms that can include:

  • foul smelling, watery diarrhea
  • fever
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite

More severe symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal tenderness, and fever, which may indicate that the child has C. difficile dysentery or pseudomembranous colitis.


Stool cultures or stool antigen detection tests for C. difficile can help determine if your child has a C. difficile infection. Tests can also be done to look for the C. difficile toxins in a stool sample.


C. difficile infections can go away on their own, especially if the antibiotics that triggered the infection are stopped. In other cases, the C. difficile infection can be treated with antibiotics, usually Flagyl (metronidazole). Oral vancomycin is also sometimes used, although Flagyl is the preferred first-line drug of choice to help decrease rates of resistant strains of C.


What You Need To Know

Other things to know about C. diff infections include:

  • Rates of C. difficile infections have been increasing in recent years.
  • Antibiotics that are most commonly associated with C. difficile infections include amoxicillin, ampicillin, cephalosporins, and clindamycin.
  • Avoiding the overuse of antibiotics and careful handwashing can help prevent C. difficile infections.
  • The C. difficile bacteria can normally be found in the stool of 50% of newborns and 5% of older infants, even though they aren't sick and don't have any symptoms.
  • Stool samples that are going to be tested for C. difficile are usually kept refrigerated until the test can be performed.

And unfortunately, C. diff. infections sometimes come back even after they are properly treated. A fecal transplant is a new treatment for patients who get repeated C. diff. infections.

View Article Sources
  • Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed.
  • Long: Principles & Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 3rd ed.
  • Pokorn M. Severe Clostridium difficile-associated disease in children. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 01-OCT-2008; 27(10): 944-6.