What Is C. diff?
C. diff is an infection caused by Clostridium difficile (C. diff) bacteria. These are germs that live in the part of your belly called your colon, or large intestine. They don't usually cause problems, but if the normal balance of good and bad bacteria in your colon changes, C. diff bacteria can grow out of control and lead to infection. This can harm your colon and cause diarrhea and belly pain.
What are the symptoms of C. diff?
Some people with C. diff have no symptoms, but they can still pass the infection to others. Symptoms can include:
Belly pain and cramping
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Who is most likely to get C. diff?
Anyone can get C. diff. But you are more likely to get the infection if you:
Are ages 65 and older
Are taking antibiotics
Have a weak immune system because of other health problems
Have inflammatory bowel disease
Have had C. diff before
Work or are a patient in a hospital, clinic, or nursing home
C. diff can come back in about 1 in 4 patients. If C. diff does come back, you are at higher risk for infection again in the future.
How can lower my chance of getting C. diff again?
Take antibiotics only when you really need them. Antibiotics don't help treat illnesses caused by viruses, such as colds and the flu. Don't ask for antibiotics from your doctor if he or she says they won't work.
When you are given antibiotics, take them exactly as your doctor tells you to. Don't take more or less than the amount prescribed (the dosage). Also don't take them for a shorter or longer time than your doctor tells you to, even if you feel better.
How can I stop the spread of C. diff?
C. diff can easily spread to other people in your home or workplace. The germs can remain on your hands after using the bathroom, then spread to any person, surface, or object you touch. Here's how to not spread C. diff to other people:
Practice good handwashing. This is especially important after using the bathroom and before eating.
Wash your clothes, bed sheets, and towels in separate loads. Use hot water. Use both detergent and chlorine bleach.
Use chlorine bleach-based products to disinfect surfaces you touch often, such as table tops, light switches, door knobs, and toilet seats.
Remind others to wear gloves and to wash their hands if assisting you in the bathroom.
Don't use alcohol-based hand cleaners. They don't work against C. diff.