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Amniotic fluid problems

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Antenatal Classes

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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52


Giardiasis (pronounced gee-ar-die-a-sis with a soft 'G') is an infection of the small intestine caused by the protozoan parasite, Giardia lamblia. Previously only a problem in tropical areas, giardiasis now also occurs in temperate countries where it primarily affects preschool children. Giardia lamblia is the most common cause of parasitic gastrointestinal disease (Collins, 2003; Leary, 1990; MedicineNet, inc., 1996-2010).


This parasite exists in 2 forms, namely an active form, known as a trophozoite, and an inactive form called a cyst. The trophozoite clings to the folds in the lining of the small intestine where it absorbs nutrients from the intestinal fluids, and is responsible for causing the signs and symptoms of giardiasis. The trophozoite is unable to live for long outside of the body and therefore is incapable of spreading the infection to others. In contrast, the inactive cyst is able to survive for prolonged periods of time outside the body. When ingested, the cyst is activated by the stomach acid, and develops into the disease-producing trophozoite. Only 10 cysts need to be ingested for infection to occur. Trophozoites are not only responsible for the symptoms of giardiasis, but produce the cysts that exit the body through the faeces and spread the disease to others (Collins, 2003; MedicineNet, inc., 1996-2010).


How is giardiasis transmitted?

Cysts of Giardia can be found in the faeces of affected persons or animals. Giardiasis can therefore be transmitted from person to person through contact with food contaminated by faeces, or by direct faecal-oral contamination. Cysts are also able to survive in water, making giardiasis one of the most common waterborne parasitic illnesses. This includes natural water sources, such as streams and lakes, as well as recreational sources, such as swimming pools and hot tubs. Infection is more likely caused by an infected user rather than the water itself being contaminated. Domestic and wild animals can both become infected with Giardia, but it is unclear how often they transmit the illness to humans (MedicineNet, inc., 1996-2010).


Giardia can be spread by:

·                Accidentally swallowing the parasite, from surfaces infected with the faeces of an infected individual. This may include toys, diaper pails, bathroom fixtures, etc.

·                Drinking water that has been contaminated by faeces or sewage from humans or animals.

·                Having close contact with a person infected with the parasite.

·                Eating uncooked food contaminated by Giardia (CDC, 2009).



Who is most likely to contract giardiasis?

·                Children in child-care centres.

·                Close contacts, such as family members and caregivers of the infected person.

·                People who drink contaminated water that has not been boiled, filtered or disinfected with chemicals.

·                People contaminated water while swimming in infected rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, etc.

·                Individuals who do not practice good hygiene, e.g. proper hand washing (CDC, 2009).



The symptoms of giardiasis range greatly from no symptoms, to a mild infection, or in some cases the symptoms may be severe. If symptoms do present themselves, they usually begins 7 days after the parasite has entered the body, but may only occur up to 3 weeks or more later. In healthy individuals, symptoms may last for 2-6 weeks. Medication can help decrease the recovery period.

·         Violent attacks of diarrhoea accompanied by wind.

·         Very pale faeces that float on water.

·                Foul-smelling faeces due to malabsorption. This occurs when the Giardia interferes with the absorption of fat from the intestine.

·         Possible weight loss due to the illness itself or the malabsorption.

·         Nausea with/without vomiting.

·         Bloating.

·         Abdominal cramping and discomfort.

·         General malaise and fatigue (CDC, 2009; Collins, 2003; MedicineNet, inc., 1996-210).



Your doctor may take a stool sample and send it to the laboratory for analysis. For antigen testing, the stool is tested for the presence of Giardial proteins. The stool can also be examined under the microscope to detect the presence of cysts or trophozoites. Even though multiple stool samples may be required for a microscopic diagnosis to be made, this test is also able to identify other parasites that may be causing the illness (MedicineNet, inc., 1996-2010; The Nemours Foundation, 1995-2010).



·                Giardiasis is treated with prescription, anti-parasitic medications that eradicate Giardia lamblia.

·                Treatment usually lasts for 5-7 days and may be given to your child in liquid form. It is essential to follow your doctor’s dosage directions to ensure that all the parasites are killed, that your child experiences a rapid recovery and to avoid the infection of other family members.

·                Ensure that your child has a sufficient fluid intake to replace fluids lost through diarrhoea and to prevent her from becoming dehydrated (Collins, 2003; The Nemours Foundation, 1995-2010).



·         Only drink water that has been treated in an established water facility.

·                If you are unsure about the safety of water, either boil it or pour it through a filter with a pore size of <1 micrometer, in order to prevent the presence of any cysts or trophozoites.

·                Do not drink water from natural sources, such as streams, without boiling or filtering it first.

·                Do not use ice made from contaminated water.

·                Do not brush your teeth with contaminated water.

·                In areas where Giardia commonly occurs, avoid uncooked and unpeeled fruit and vegetables.

·                Wash hands properly before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom, after changing a nappy, or touching animals (MedicineNet, inc., 1996-2010).