Diarrhea and bloody diarrhea can result from a number of diseases. Confirming shigellosis involves taking a sample of your stool to be tested in a laboratory for the presence of shigella bacteria or their toxins.
Shigella infection usually runs its course in five to seven days. Replacing lost fluids from diarrhea may be all the treatment you need, particularly if your general health is good and your shigella infection is mild.
Avoid drugs intended to treat diarrhea, such as loperamide (Imodium) or atropine (Lomotil), because they can make your condition worse.
For severe shigella infection, antibiotics may shorten the duration of the illness. However, some shigella bacteria have become drug resistant. So it's better not to take antibiotics unless your shigella infection is severe.
Antibiotics may also be necessary for infants, older adults and people who have HIV infection, as well as in situations where there's a high risk of spreading the disease.
Fluid and salt replacement
For generally healthy adults, drinking water may be enough to counteract the dehydrating effects of diarrhea.
Children may benefit from an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte, available in drugstores. Many pharmacies carry their own brands.
Children and adults who are severely dehydrated need treatment in a hospital emergency room, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously), rather than by mouth. Intravenous hydration provides the body with water and essential nutrients much more quickly than oral solutions do.
Preparing for your appointment
Most people who have shigella infection get well on their own and don't need to see a doctor. If you or your child has severe symptoms or a high fever, you may need treatment.
What you can do
Before talking with your doctor, you may want to write a list of answers to the following questions:
- What are the symptoms?
- When did the symptoms start?
- Have you or your child been exposed to shigella infection?
- Do you or your child have a fever? If so, how high is it?
What to expect from your doctor
During the physical exam, your doctor may press on various parts of your abdomen to check for pain or tenderness. He or she may also use a cotton swab to obtain a stool culture or send you home with instructions for collecting and transporting a sample of your stool so it can be tested for evidence of infection.