Signs of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

Key points

  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is very serious complication of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection.
  • It can lead to kidney failure, permanent health problems, and even death.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you notice signs of HUS.
A young child with blonde hair laying in a hospital bed sleeping.

What to look out for

Signs that someone with diarrhea may be developing HUS include:

  • Urinating (peeing) less often or not at all
  • Losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids
  • Unexplained bruising or tiny red spots on the skin
  • Having blood in the urine (pee)
  • Feeling very tired or irritable (cranky)
  • Decreased awareness (alertness)

When to seek emergency help

HUS is a medical emergency.‎

Call the doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

People with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent health problems or die.

Other information about HUS

People at risk for HUS

Anyone can develop HUS.

However, among people with diarrhea, HUS is most common among children younger than 5 years.

Causes of HUS

HUS is most often caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection. About 8 in 10 children with HUS have STEC infection.

Other important causes of HUS are

  • Other germs that cause diarrhea, vomiting, or intestinal symptoms
  • Pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria
  • Some medications, including some chemotherapy drugs

Typical and atypical HUS

The information on this page is about typical HUS, which is linked to diarrhea.

Atypical HUS describes all other HUS, which are often the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

People with atypical HUS may develop a chronic (lasting a long time or recurring) form of the condition. Atypical HUS also can lead to more severe symptoms and chronic health problems. These health problems can include high blood pressure, kidney failure, and blood clots that form throughout the body.