Older Adult Health Problem Becomes Problem for Youth

By: Lynette Kramer, MD

Clostridium difficile (C. diff) was once a health problem faced by older adults and people in the hospital, but now it has become a concern for the young as well. C. diff is a bacterial infection that causes swelling of the large bowel. It can lead to watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and stomach pain.

In the past, C. diff was more of a health acquired infection (HAI) and was mainly found in the nursing home or hospital setting. Now it is popping up in younger adults, children, and even babies.

While the reason for this is not fully clear, there are a few ways you can protect yourself:

1. Wash your hands well with soap and water. Hand sanitizer does not kill C. diff, so it is vital to wash your hands, not use hand sanitizer, every time after you go to the bathroom or change a diaper.

2. Respect antibiotics. Often, when a person is sick, antibiotics will not help, because the illness is caused by a virus. Overuse of antibiotics can actually cause C. diff. However, if an antibiotic is needed, take it exactly the way your Primary Care Provider (PCP) told you to. Misuse of antibiotics can make them less effective, leading to more problems in the future.

3. Use bleach products for cleaning if someone in your family has C. diff. Normal disinfectants and cleaners will not kill the germs that cause C. diff but bleach can.

C. diff has become more of a problem in our country than it was in the past, but with a few basic steps you can protect yourself and your family. If you have questions or concerns, please set up a time to visit with your PCP by calling: 402-395-5013.