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Clostridium Difficile, FAQ

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Frequently asked questions about Clostridium difficile

It is the goal of Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters Health System (CHKDHS) to provide the best possible care for your family. Please read this information to learn about how you can help us prevent infections.

What is Clostridium difficile infection?

Clostridium difficile [pronounced Klo-STRID-ee-um-dif-uh-SEEL], also known as “C. diff” [See-dif], is a germ that causes diarrhea. Most cases of C. difficile infection occur in patients taking antibiotics. The most common symptoms of C.difficile infection include:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Belly pain and tenderness
  • Fever

Who is most likely to get C.difficile infection?

The elderly and people with certain medical problems have the greatest chance of getting C. difficile. C.difficile spores can live outside the human body for a very long time and may be found on things in the environment such as bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures, and medical equipment. C. difficile infection can spread from person-to-person on contaminated equipment and on the hands of doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers and visitors.

Can C. difficile be treated?

Yes, there are antibiotics that can be used to treat C. difficile. In some severe cases, a person might have to have surgery to remove the infected part of the intestines. The surgery is needed only in 1 to 2 out of every 100 persons with C.difficile infection.

What are some of things CHKDHS is doing to prevent C. difficile infections?

To prevent C.difficile. infections, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers:

  • Clean their hands before and after caring for every patient. This can prevent C. difficile. and other germs from being passed from one patient to another on their hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs do not kill the C.difficile spores, so washing with soap and water before leaving your child’s room is important. It is okay to use the alcohol-based hand rub when entering your child’s room, but be sure to wash with soap and water on leaving.
  • Carefully clean all hospital rooms and medical equipment that have been used for patients with C. difficile.
  • Use Contact Precautions to prevent C. difficile from spreading to other patients. Contact Precautions mean:
    • Whenever possible, patients with C. difficile will have a single room or share a room only with someone else who has C. difficile.
    • Healthcare providers will put on gloves and wear a gown over their clothing while taking care of patients with C. difficile.
    • Visitors may also be asked to wear a gown and gloves.
    • When leaving the room, hospital providers and visitors remove their gown and gloves and clean their hands with soap and water.
    • Patients on Contact Precautions are asked to stay in their hospital rooms. They can go to other areas of the hospital for treatments and tests.
    • Equipment and patient rooms will be cleaned with a disinfectant that kills C. difficile spores.
    • Only give patients antibiotics when it is necessary.

What can I do to help prevent C. difficile infections?

  • Make sure that all your child’s doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers clean their hands before and after caring for your child. Alcohol-based hand rubs can be used before they enter child’s room, but soap and water should be used when they leave your child’s room. Alcohol hand rubs do not kill the C. difficile spores. If you do not see your child's healthcare providers clean their hands as described above, please ask them to do so.
  • Make sure that your child's doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers wear gowns and gloves. Feel free to remind them if they are not wearing them.
  • Only give your child antibiotics as prescribed by his/her doctor.
  • Be sure to wash your own hands with soap and water often, and teach your child to wash his/her hands often, especially after using the bathroom or before eating.

Can our friends and family get C. difficile when we visit my child?

C. difficile infection usually does not occur in persons who are not taking antibiotics. Visitors are not likely to get C. difficile. Still, to be safe, all visitors should:

  • Wash their hands with an alcohol hand rub before they enter your child’s room and wash their hands with soap and water as they leave his/her room.
  • Ask visitors to wear protective gowns and gloves during visits.

What do I need to do when my child goes home?

Once your child is home, you can return to your normal routine. Often, the diarrhea will be will be better or completely gone before your child goes home. This makes giving C. difficile to other people much less likely. There are a few things you should do, however, to lower the chances of your child developing the C. difficile infection again or of spreading it to others.

  • If your child is given a prescription to treat C. difficile, give the medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor and pharmacist. Do not give half-doses or stop before you run out.
  • Wash your hands and make sure your child washes his/her hands often, especially after going to the bathroom and before handling food.
  • Other people who live with you and your child should wash their hands often as well.
  • If your child develops more diarrhea after he/she gets home, tell the doctor immediately.
  • Your child’s doctor may give you additional instructions.

If you have questions, please ask your child’s doctor or nurse.

This material was adapted from information co-sponsored by: SHEA (The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America); IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America; APIC (Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) CDC (Center for Disease Control) and The Joint Commission, 2018.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 01/2018

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