Although people — including children — with no known risk factors have gotten sick from C. difficile, certain factors increase your risk.

Taking antibiotics or other medications

Medication-associated risk factors include:

  • Currently taking or having recently taken antibiotics
  • Taking broad-spectrum antibiotics that target a wide range of bacteria
  • Using multiple antibiotics
  • Taking antibiotics for a long time
  • Taking medications to reduce stomach acid, including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

Staying in a health care facility

The majority of C. difficile cases occur in, or after exposure to, health care settings — including hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities — where germs spread easily, antibiotic use is common and people are especially vulnerable to infection. In hospitals and nursing homes, C. difficile spreads mainly on hands from person to person, but also on cart handles, bedrails, bedside tables, toilets, sinks, stethoscopes, thermometers — even telephones and remote controls.

Having a serious illness or medical procedure

If you have a serious illness, such as inflammatory bowel disease or colorectal cancer, or a weakened immune system as a result of a medical condition or treatment (such as chemotherapy), you're more susceptible to a C. difficile infection. Your risk of C. difficile infection is also greater if you've had abdominal surgery or a gastrointestinal procedure.

Older age is also a risk factor for C. difficile infection. In one study, the risk of becoming infected with C. difficile was 10 times greater for people age 65 and older compared with younger people.

After having a previous C. difficile infection, your chances of having a recurring infection can be up to 20 percent, and the risk increases further with every subsequent infection.

Jul. 16, 2013

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