What is giardiasis?

In poor sanitation and unsafe water areas, people can easily get giardiasis. This is a disease which is caused by microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia.

The parasites are found in backcountry streams and lakes but also in municipal water supplies, swimming pools, whirlpool spas and wells.

Giardia infection can be transmitted through food and person-to-person contact. Pet dogs and cats also frequently contract giardia. You can also get giardiasis by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.

How common is giardiasis?

Giardiasis is a major diarrheal disease found throughout the world. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of giardiasis?

Signs or symptoms of giardiasis can be never showed out but the parasite still exists in the body and can spread it to others through their stool. For those who do get sick, signs and symptoms usually appear one to three weeks after exposure and may include:

  • Watery, sometimes foul-smelling diarrhea that may alternate with soft, greasy stools
  • Fatigue or malaise
  • Abdominal cramps and bloating
  • Gas or flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive gas
  • Headaches

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Call your doctor if you have loose stools, abdominal bloating and nausea lasting more than a week, or if you become dehydrated. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’re at risk of giardia infection — that is, you have a child in child care, you’ve recently traveled to an endemic area, or you’ve swallowed water from a lake or stream.


What causes 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 infection.
  • Swallowing contaminated water is the most common way to become infection. Giardia parasites are found in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams worldwide, as well as in municipal water supplies, wells, cisterns, swimming pools, water parks and spas. Ground and surface water can become contaminated from agricultural runoff, wastewater discharge or animal feces. Children in diapers and people with diarrhea may accidentally contaminate pools and spas.
  • Contracting giardiasis from food is less common because the parasites can be killed by heat. Handling food with poor hygiene or eating produce rinsed in contaminated water can allow the parasite to spread.
  • You can contract giardiasis if your hands become contaminated with fecal matter. For example parents changing a child’s diapers are especially at risk. So are child care workers and children in child care centers, where outbreaks are increasingly common.
  • The giardia parasite can also spread through anal sex.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for giardiasis?

There are many risk factors for giardiasis, such as:

  • Giardia infection is far more common in children than it is in adults. Children seem more likely to contact with feces, especially if they wear diapers, are toilet training or spend time in a child care center. People who live or work with small children also are at higher risk of developing giardia infection.
  • Without using safe drinking water. Giardiasis is rampant wherever sanitation is inadequate or water isn’t safe to drink. You’re at risk if you travel to places where giardiasis is common, especially if you aren’t careful about what you eat and drink. The risk is greatest in rural or wilderness areas.
  • People who have anal sex. Having anal sex without using a condom puts you at increased risk of giardia infection, as well as sexually transmitted infections.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is giardiasis diagnosed?

  • Stool testing. A technician will check your stool sample for giardia parasites
  • 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

How is giardiasis treated?

In most cases, giardiasis eventually disappears on its own. You only need prescribe medication if your infection is severe or prolonged.

Most doctors will recommend to get treated with antiparasitic drugs, rather than leaving it to heal on its own. Certain antibiotics are commonly used to treat giardiasis such as: Metronidazole, Tinidazole, Nitazoxandine, Paromomycin,

With pregnancy, there are no consistently recommended medications for giardiasis because of the potential for adverse drug effects to the baby. If your symptoms are mild, your doctor may recommend delaying treatment until after the first trimester. If treatment is necessary, discuss the best available treatment option with your doctor.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remediesthat can help me manage giardiasis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with giardiasis:

  • Wash your hands
  • Purify wilderness water
  • Keep your mouth closed. Try not to swallow water when swimming in pools, lakes or streams.
  • Use bottled water. When traveling to parts of the world where the water supply is likely to be unsafe, drink and brush your teeth with bottled water that you open yourself. Don’t use ice, and avoid raw fruits and vegetables, even those you peel yourself.
  • Practice safer sex
  • Don’t drink untreated or unpurified water

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.

Review Date: July 6, 2017 | Last Modified: July 6, 2017