Know the basics
What is dysentery?
Dysentery is an intestinal disease caused by bacteria such as salmonella and shigella. These bacteria can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in the stool. They also can be passed in contaminated food or by drinking or swimming in contaminated water.
How common is dysentery?
Dysentery is common. It can affect patients at any age. However, children ages 2 to 4 are most likely to get the condition. It is more common in summer than winter. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of dysentery?
The common symptoms of dysentery are diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomachcramps starting 1 or 2 days after you are exposed to the bacteria. Dysentery usually lasts 5 to 7 days. In some people, especially young children and older adults, the diarrhea can be so severe that a hospital stay is needed. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms at all but may still spread bacteria to others.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following: bloody diarrhea or diarrhea severe enough to cause weight loss and dehydration. Also, contact your doctor if you or your child has diarrhea and a fever of 38oC or higher.
Know the causes
What causes dysentery?
Dysentery can have a number of causes. Bacterial infections are by far the most common causes of dysentery. These infections include Shigella, Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella species of bacteria.
Dysentery is spread when the bacteria in your stool or on soiled fingers are ingested. Poor hand-washing habits and eating contaminated food may cause the condition. Dysentery is often found in day care centers, nursing homes, refugee camps, and other places where conditions are crowded and sanitation is poor.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for dysentery?
There are many risk factors for dysentery, such as:
- Being a toddler. Dysentery infection is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 4.
- Living in group housing or participating in group activities. Close contact with other people spreads the bacteria from person to person. Shigella outbreaks are more common in child care centers, community wading pools, nursing homes, jails and military barracks.
- Living or traveling in areas that lack sanitation. People who live or travel in developing countries are more likely to contract shigella infection.
- Being a sexually active gay male. Men who have sex with men are at higher risk because of direct or indirect oral-anal contact.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is dysentery diagnosed?
Because many different diseases can cause a fever and bloody diarrhea, lab tests are the best way to diagnose dysentery. Your doctor will most likely still do a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms, foods you have recently eaten, and your work and home environments. A stool culture confirms the diagnosis. Blood tests may be done if your symptoms are severe or to rule out other causes.
How is dysentery treated?
The goal of infection treatment is replacing lost fluids from diarrhea may be all the treatment you need, particularly if your general health is good and your dysentery infection is mild. You treatment options can include:
Antibiotics may also be necessary for infants, older adults and people who have HIV infection, as well as in situations where there’s a high risk of spreading the disease.
Fluid and salt replacement
For generally healthy adults, drinking water may be enough to counteract the dehydrating effects of diarrhea. Children may benefit from an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte.
Children and adults who are severely dehydrated need treatment in a hospital emergency room, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously), rather than by mouth. Intravenous hydration provides the body with water and essential nutrients much more quickly than oral solutions do.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dysentery?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dysentery:
- Washing your hands frequently and carefully with soap.
- If your child is in diapers and has bacteria infection, after diaper changing, wipe the changing area with a disinfectant such as diluted household bleach and put the diapers in a closed-lid garbage can. Then wash your hands with soap and warm water.
- People who have bacteria infection should not prepare food or pour water for others. Bacteria present in the diarrhea of people with shigellosis and for 1 or 2 weeks after symptoms have stopped.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print version. Page 143.
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Dysentery. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dysentery/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed June 12, 2016.
Dysentery: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/171193.php. Accessed June 12, 2016.
Dysentery. http://chealth.canoe.com/Condition/GetCondition/Dysentery. Accessed June 12, 2016.
Shigellosis. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/shigellosis-health/article_em.htm. Accessed June 12, 2016.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017