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What is C. diff?

C. diff (Clostridioides difficile) is a bacteria often found in the digestive tract. Normally, good bacteria control C. diff and do not allow it to grow. When your child takes an antibiotic, the levels of good bacteria go down. This makes it possible for C. diff bacteria to increase. Too much C. diff can lead to C. diff infection, which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of C. diff infection

Early symptoms are diarrhea and cramping. Later signs may include weakness, low fluids, fever, nausea, vomiting, or blood in the stool.

When C. diff takes over, the bacteria make toxins. These toxins attack the intestine wall. If not treated, the toxins may cause an ulcer, or a hole in the wall of the intestine.

How C. diff is diagnosed

The lab staff tests a sample of your child’s stool to check for C. diff infection.

Treatment for C. diff infection

  • Two antibiotics are used to treat C. diff. These are metronidazole and vancomycin. If that does not work, the doctor may prescribe other treatments.
  • A child with C. diff infection is placed on contact isolation precautions. Staff and visitors must wear gloves and gowns while in the patient room.
To prevent the spread of C. diff, wash your hands with soap and water. Alcohol hand sanitizer does not kill the C. diff.

To prevent the spread of C. diff, wash your hands with soap and water. Alcohol hand sanitizer does not kill C. diff.

Preventing C. diff infection

  • Wash your hands. Clean your hands well with soap and water. Staff should clean their hands before and after treating each patient. Patients, families, and visitors should wash their hands often.
  • Clean and disinfect. Disinfect surfaces with a chlorine bleach product. Bleach kills C. diff bacteria.
  • Use antibiotics properly. Use antibiotics only when needed, and for the shortest time possible.

For more information

If you have questions about C. diff, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse.


  • C. diff bacteria often live in the digestive tract. High levels of C. diff may lead to infection.
  • Early symptoms of C. diff infection include diarrhea and cramping.
  • Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent C. diff infection.

Reviewed: September 2022