Giardia is a unicellular parasite, and it is found in the intestinal tract within the human body. Presence of giardia in humans leads to a waterborne disease known as giardiasis. Due to the infection, the body loses its ability to absorb fats obtained from food. This parasite is highly contagious in nature and enters the body through contaminated drinking water or due to contact with infected fecal matter. It can infect humans as well as animals. This condition mostly affects toddlers, small children, and pregnant women. It can also get transferred to parents and caregivers of the infected children.
There are many people who do not show any symptoms when they get infected by giardia. Usually, the symptoms are observed after seven days of actual infection. The symptoms continues for two or more weeks. The common signs of giardia are abdominal pain, cramps, watery diarrhea without blood or mucous, dehydration, intestinal gas or flatulence, nausea, vomiting, low fever, etc. These symptoms may be intense for one or two weeks and then they become moderate. In chronic cases of giardia, loss of appetite leads to poor nutrition and the infected child may lose a lot of weight.
Giardia is diagnosed with the help of laboratory tests of the stool samples of the patients. If there are no signs or symptoms of giardia infection, then treatment in not required. The treatment should start early so that the disease does not spread and infect other members of the family. Doctors prescribe anti-parasitic medicines to kill the parasite. The medicines should be continued for 5-7 days. The medicines weaken the parasites and make them less contagious. Some of these medicines have side effects like leaving a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea etc. Some of the medicines are not suitable for pregnant women. So pregnant women with this infection should inform their doctors about the pregnancy. Never try to treat the infection of a patient with over the counter medicines for diarrhea or abdominal cramps without consulting any doctor.
The medicines should be accompanied by a large amount of fluid intake. This is because excess water is lost from the body due to diarrhea and vomiting and the patient is prone to dehydration in such a condition. However, stay away from caffeine beverages, as such drinks force the body to lose more water. All the medicines need to be taken as per the dose regularly to get rid of the symptoms as early as possible. While undergoing the treatment, adults should abstain from alcohol as it tends to interact with the medicines and worsen the condition. If a person is living in an infected environment he or she is likely to get the infection repeatedly. In that case, the infection becomes chronic and requires a long term treatment.
Proper hygienic habits and living conditions are essential for prevention of giardia in humans. Proper washing of hands is a must after using toilets, changing nappies in children, and before eating. If the drinking water in your home is not safe, then it should be boiled to prevent any infection. Wash the raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly in clean water before cooking or eating them. Make sure you or your children do not drink water from lakes, swimming pools or wells, to avoid this kind of infection. An infected person should not go for swimming as the germs can spread to other people who are using the water.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.