Your Risk of C. diff

C. diff bacteria is commonly found in the environment, but most cases of C. diff occur while you’re taking antibiotics or not long after you’ve finished taking antibiotics. People on antibiotics are 7 to 10 times more likely to get C. diff while on the drugs and during the month after.

That’s because antibiotics affect your microbiome by wiping out bad germs but also the good germs that protect your body against infections.

The effect of antibiotics can last as long as several months. If you come in contact with C. diff germs during this time, you can get sick.

If you’ve been taking antibiotics for more than a week, you could be even more susceptible.

Here are more C. diff risk factors:

  • age (more than 80% of C. diff deaths happen among those 65 and older)
  • complicated medical care and extended stays in healthcare settings, especially hospitals and nursing homes
  • certain antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones
  • a weakened immune system
  • previous infection with C. diff or known exposure to the germs

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk for developing C. diff.

But you can get C. diff even if none of these apply.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk for developing C. diff.

Four more risk factors for C diff include age (65 or older) hospitalization, weakened immune system or previous infections

What is the microbiome?

The microbiome is the neighborhood of good and bad germs that live in or on your body—including your stomach and intestines, your mouth, and your urinary tract—and on your skin.

Some of those germs can cause illness, but others are very important in keeping you healthy. A healthy microbiome helps protect you from infection, but antibiotics disrupt your microbiome, wiping out both the good and the bad bacteria.

What are the complications of C. diff?

The most common complications include:

  • dehydration
  • inflammation of the colon, known as colitis
  • severe diarrhea
Common complications of C diff include dehydration, colitis, and severe diarrhea.

You might be wondering…

What is sepsis?

Rare complications include:

  • serious intestinal conditions, such as toxic megacolon
  • sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection
  • death
Rare complications of C diff include serious intestinal conditions, sepsis, and death.

Is C. diff contagious?

Yes, but most healthy adults who come in contact with C. diff won’t get sick. They won’t pick up the germs or be affected by them at all.

What is colonization?

This man is colonized with c diff. He has C diff germs in his body, but he doesn’t have signs or symptoms.

Sometimes when healthy people come into contact with C. diff, they will begin to carry C. diff germs in or on their body, but they won’t get sick.

In medical terms, they are said to be “colonized” with C. diff. This is also sometimes called “C. diff carriage,” and a person might be said to be a “C. diff carrier.”

Someone who is colonized has NO signs or symptoms.

Colonization is more common than C. diff infection and does not require treatment. Once your body is colonized, you can remain colonized for several months.

If you are colonized with C. diff, you can spread the infection to others.

Some reasons you might become colonized are:

  • You’ve recently recovered from C. diff.
  • You have a history of taking antibiotics.
  • You’ve recently been hospitalized.

Once your body is colonized with C. diff, you can remain colonized for several months. Colonization is more common than C. diff infection and does not require treatment.

Because it’s possible to spread C. diff to others while you’re colonized, it’s important to always practice good hand hygiene, making sure to wash your hands well with soap and water before eating and after using the bathroom.

Can I get C. diff in the hospital?

Yes. C. diff is more common in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. This is because many people colonized with C. diff are staying or being treated there.