A parasite is an organism that lives on or in another type of organism, called the host.
There are different types of parasites that affect humans, animals, and plants. Parasitic invaders enter the body in many ways, usually through ingestion or penetration into the skin. Parasites often attach to the lining of the intestines and can cause serious irritation to the host's digestive system. There are multiple parasite infections that affect US residents, and giardiasis is just one of them.
Giardiasis is the infection where the parasite giardia enters the host's body and travels to their intestines, causing extreme discomfort in some cases. The parasite attaches itself to the lining of the small intestines and absorbs vital nutrients from food passing through the intestines. The parasite can live for months inside the host, reproducing itself in the intestines and inflicting damage to the intestine walls.
Symptoms of Giardiasis
There are several symptoms that you can expect to see if you’re suffering from giardiasis. Some of the most common ones include:
- Diarrhea - The most common symptom of giardiasis is diarrhea. This condition causes watery stools that may be foul-smelling and contain mucus. If this happens frequently, it could indicate the presence of other gastrointestinal disorders as well.
- Abdominal Pain - Abdominal pain occurs when the parasite irritates the intestinal wall and causes inflammation. Some people experience cramps, while others feel abdominal discomfort.
- Vomiting - Vomiting is also a common symptom of giardiasis. People who have been infected with giardia tend to vomit after they eat. In severe cases, vomiting becomes uncontrollable and leads to dehydration.
- Fatigue - People who suffer from the disease often report feeling tired all day long. They also complain about having less energy than usual.
- Nausea - Nausea is another common symptom of this parasitic infection caused by the parasite irritating the nerves in the stomach. When someone feels nauseous, they may not want to eat or drink anything at all.
- Weight Loss - People suffering from this disease lose weight because they do not absorb enough calories. Their appetite decreases due to constant nausea they experience. Vomiting and excessive diarrhea also contribute to weight loss.
Causes of Giardiasis
There are several factors that increase one's chances of getting giardiasis. These include:
- Poor hygiene - If one doesn't wash their hands properly before eating, drinking, or preparing food, they run the risk of contracting the disease. People should always use soap and warm water to cleanse their hands thoroughly.
- Eating undercooked meat - Eating raw or undercooked meats increases the chance of coming down with giardiasis. This is because the parasite thrives in environments with high levels of moisture. Undercooked meat contains more moisture than cooked meat does. It is important to cook meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Contaminated water - Water contaminated with feces, animal waste, or human sewage poses a great threat to public health. Therefore, people need to make sure that they don't drink any water that has been polluted.
- Traveling abroad - When traveling abroad, one needs to take special precautions against acquiring giardiasis. Travelers should avoid using tap water unless they know it has been boiled. One way to ensure that the water is safe to drink is to boil it first. Boiling kills the parasites present in the water.
- Having anal sex - Anal sex is considered risky behavior since it exposes one to the possibility of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Anal sex is also associated with increased risks of developing giardiasis infection.
In most cases, giardiasis symptoms disappear within a few days once the person stops eating foods containing cyst-forming organisms. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can lead to complications such as chronic fatigue, liver problems, skin rashes, and other gastrointestinal disturbances. A doctor will prescribe antibiotics for those people who fail to respond to home treatment. There are different antibiotics with the antiparasitic effect that work best on different types of infections, depending on what part of the body is affected. The doctor might recommend taking them twice or thrice per week. To avoid antibiotic resistance, one should only take these prescriptions when prescribed by doctors.