Clostridium difficile diarrhoea

Handwashing is one of the most important ways of minimising the spread of Clostridium difficile.

What is Clostridium difficile?

 Clostridium difficile is a bacterium (bug) which causes diarrhoea, sometimes with abdominal pain and vomiting. It often occurs following treatment with antibiotics for infections or abdominal surgery.

Most often it affects elderly people and those who already have other health problems.

The symptoms range from mild diarrhoea for a few days which stops on its own, to frequent offensive stools with mucous and sometimes blood.

How do staff find out if I have Clostridium difficile?

If you have diarrhoea for more than 24 hours we will take a stool specimen and send it to the laboratory for testing. The result should be available after about 24 hours.

Can it be treated? 

Yes. Sometimes stopping the antibiotics is sufficient. In more severe cases a different and specific antibiotic tablet will be given for seven to ten days. Symptoms usually subside after two to three days.

How do we stop it spreading?

The bacterium is found in large numbers in the stools. However, it can also live in dust, bed sheets and on surfaces, so your room should be cleaned daily. It is advisable that your nightwear and bed linen should be changed daily or when soiled.

Hand washing is the most important way to prevent spread of infection.

Do I need to be in a single room?

 If you are mobile and can get to the toilet then this is not necessary. Hand washing after using the toilet is very important.

However, if you are not able to get to the toilet and have frequent diarrhoea we may nurse you in a single room which will give you more privacy, especially at first when symptoms are at their most distressing. You will have your own commode close at hand. This also helps to prevent it spreading to other patients who may be more vulnerable than you.

Can people still visit me and can they catch Clostridium difficile?

Visitors may still come and see you. Healthy people are at very little risk of catching Clostridium difficile. It is not a problem to children and pregnant women.

There is no need for visitors to wear gloves and aprons unless they are giving close personal care (for example, washing and changing your clothes). Hands should be washed thoroughly on leaving the room.

What about my personal laundry?

Your own laundry can be put separately through the washing machine at home with no problems.

How will I know when the Clostridium difficile has gone?

When the diarrhoea stops, the course of antibiotics is finished and when your normal bowel habit returns, we consider the infection has gone. There is no need to send a further specimen to check.

Can it come back?

Unfortunately yes. Further courses of antibiotics may cause the symptoms to return. Sometimes it will be necessary to give a longer course of tr

Who can I speak to if I have further questions?

Please speak to any of the ward staff who are caring for you. If they are unable to answer your questions or if you require further information the Infection Control Nurses will visit you on the ward, or are available via the hospital switchboard. Their direct telephone number is 01223 217 497.