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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Children's Health Giardiasis in children

Giardiasis in children

Giardiasis is caused due to the infection of the intestines. It is caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia. The patient?s intestine gets inflamed due to the infection. It is a gastro-enteritis disease. Giardiasis is far more common in children than it is in adults. Children are more likely to come in contact with feces, especially if they wear diapers, are toilet training or spend time in a child care center


Some people with Giardia infection never develop signs or symptoms but still carry the parasite and can spread it to others through their stool. For those who do get sick, signs and symptoms usually appear one to two weeks after exposure and may include:

  • Watery, sometimes foul-smelling diarrhea that may alternate with soft, greasy stools.
  • Fatigue.
  • Abdominal cramps and bloating.
  • Nausea.
  • Weight loss — as much as 10 percent of your body weight.


Signs and symptoms of Giardia infection usually improve in two to six weeks, but in some people they become chronic, lasting for months or years.


Giardia takes two forms:
Giardia is caused by the parasite Giardia intestinalis (also called Giardia lamblia). The Giardia parasite has two forms:

  • Active forms: The active form of Giardia lives in the intestines of an infected animal or human.
  • Inactive cyst: An inactive cyst form can survive for months in the environment. When you ingest the inactive cysts, their hard shells break down in your stomach, releasing the parasites. The parasites then attach to the wall of your small intestine, eventually reproducing by the millions and damaging the intestinal wall. This interferes with your ability to absorb food, leading to diarrhea and weight loss.
  • In time, the parasites detach from the small intestine, transform back into cysts and are shed in your feces. They can survive in soil or water for long periods until they're ingested by another host.

Mode of transmission:

  • From water: This is the main source of Giardia infection. The 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.
  • From food: Giardia parasites can be transmitted through food — either because food handlers with giardiasis don't wash their hands or because raw produce is irrigated or washed with contaminated water. Because cooking food kills giardia, food is a less common source of infection than water.
  • By direct contact: You can get giardiasis if your hands become contaminated with fecal matter, parents changing a child's diapers are especially at risk. So are child care workers and children in child care centers. The giardia parasite can also spread through anal sex.
  • Person-to-person contact: Infection may be caused by poor hygiene and most commonly occurs in daycare centers.

Prevention of giardiasis:

  • Wash your hands. This is the simplest and best way to prevent most kinds of infection.
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. Scrub your hands briskly with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds.
  • See purified water by boiling the water or using water filters.

When to go to the hospital

  • Profuse watery diarrhea with dehydration:
  • Signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults include being thirsty, feeling weak, decreased urination, no saliva or dry mouth, no tears, fast heart rate, and light-headedness.
  • Children with dehydration may also get irritable or sleepy.
  • Passing many small-volume stools with blood or mucus.
  • Fever greater than 100.4°F (38°C).
  • More than 6 unformed stools in 24 hours.
  • Illness longer than 48 hours.
  • Diarrhea with severe abdominal pain in anyone older than 50 years.
  • Diarrhea in anyone older than 70 years.
  • Diarrhea in people with weakened immune systems such as those with AIDS, people receiving chemotherapy, or transplant recipients.



The medications used to effectively treat the giardiasis like metronidazole, quinacrine, furazolidone, nitazonaxanide etc.