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Stomach Bacteria in Children

By Jule Rizzardo

Children can become ill from viruses, parasites and bacteria. Bacterial illnesses cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, and kids miss out on school and other activities. The bacteria grows in food and on surfaces. The next time your child complains of a stomach ache, note the symptoms and consult a medical professional.

Causes of Stomach Bacteria in Children

Bacteria can be introduced into children's digestive systems by eating raw or undercooked food or touching contaminated surfaces. Not all bacteria ingested cause illness, but those that enter and infect the digestive system can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Escherichia coli

Some 73,000 cases of Escherichia coli, or E. coli, bacterial infections occur annually in the United States. Children can be exposed to E. coli in child-care or school environments, where hard surfaces are not sanitized properly, hands are not washed thoroughly or meat or egg products are served undercooked.


Fifty thousand cases of salmonella occur each year in the United States, and approximately one-third of those affect children under age 5. The severity of diarrhea can lead to extreme dehydration, and bacteria can move into the bloodstream and spread quickly to other organs in the body. Doctors may analyze a stool sample to confirm the diagnosis, since symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and headache can be associated with other conditions.

Hecilobacter pylori

Hecilobacter pylori commonly occurs in unsanitary or crowded conditions, such as those often found in developing countries. In children, bleeding ulcers in the intestine may produce bloody vomit and stool, or no obvious symptoms may be present. Doctors may order stool or blood tests or an endoscopy to help diagnose the infection.


Shigella bacteria is more likely to be contracted in the summer and primarily affects children ages 2 to 4. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, high fever and, in extreme cases, seizures. Doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics for infections that persist. Frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent shigellosis.


Compared to E. coli and salmonella, yersiniosis is a relatively rare type of bacterial infection, causing one infection per 100,000 people per year in the United States. Typically, children contract it by drinking contaminated water or undercooked food. Diarrhea, stomach pain and fever can last for up to three weeks, so dehydration is a primary concern for young children.

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