Giardiasis: what are the symptoms and treatments for this digestive disease?

Giardiasis is a digestive parasitosis which is caused by a single-celled parasite present in the intestine: giardia. In general, this pathology affects children, but it can also affect animals such as dogs and cats. According to the Health Insurance platform, giardiasis is present all over the world. However, it is more common in hot and humid areas.

Giardia works through a cycle. Before infecting a person, they live outdoors in the form of cysts (inactive parasites). When they infect a host, cysts settle in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, in order to transform into active parasites.

Using their flagellum, a sort of mobile tail, the parasites spread and multiply rapidly on the surface of the intestine, causing damage to the cells of the intestinal lining. Which then causes digestive problems. When they are excreted in the stool, they turn back into resistant cysts to survive in nature and infect other individuals.

Giardiasis: what are the symptoms of this digestive pathology?

In most cases, giardiasis does not cause any symptoms in children. Young patients are called “healthy carriers” and they eliminate the parasites through the stool. The latter become resistant cysts again, waiting to infect their next host.

One to three weeks after contamination, some children may develop digestive problems such as:

  • acute diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • vomitings
  • intestinal malabsorption syndrome. This complication occurs when the infestation is massive and prolonged. This is a poor absorption of nutrients by the small intestine, because the parasites have destroyed the cells of the intestinal lining.

What causes giardia contamination?

Due to the ingestion of food or water infected with the cysts, a child can become infected with giardiasis. Another factor that favors contamination? Putting dirty hands to mouth that have touched stool, objects or surfaces soiled by parasites. Because of these two elements, children are therefore more likely to be infected with giardia.

How is Giardiasis diagnosed?

The attending physician identifies giardiasis by the patient’s symptoms. During the consultation, remember to tell him clearly if you have been in a hot and humid country with your child. Also tell him if your child lives in a community nursery, daycare or school.

What is the treatment to treat this digestive parasitosis?

To eliminate the parasites, the attending physician prescribes an antiparasitic drug to be taken for five days. The family and people living together with the child should also take this treatment to stop the spread of the parasites.

On its website, the Assurance Maladie unveils several recommendations to be followed to limit the impact of giardiasis:

  • inform families and communities in order to promote diagnosis
  • cut the child’s nails and brush them regularly
  • wash your hands regularly
  • clean fruits and vegetables well before eating them

One month after treatment, a stool check is necessary to ensure that the parasites have been destroyed. When this is not the case, a second cure can be prescribed.

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