C. diff in Our Kids: A Call to Action

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Peggy Lillis was the mother of two and a Brooklyn kindergarten teacher.  Peggy lost her battle to C. difficile infection in 2010.  She had only been ill for 6 days.  Learn more about Peggy’s story: http://www.peggyfoundation.org/
Peggy Lillis was the mother of two and a Brooklyn kindergarten teacher. Peggy lost her battle to C. difficile infection in 2010. She had only been ill for 6 days. Learn more about Peggy’s story: http://www.peggyfoundation.org/

Author: Christian John Lillis

My mother loved children. Me and my brother Liam, her 12 godchildren, and the 24 children she taught each year in her kindergarten class. We lost Mom at just 56 years old to a Clostridium difficile infection in April 2010. In response to her death, we started the Peggy Lillis Foundation to raise C. diff awareness.

That is why we are both distressed and pleased by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new paper on C. diff infections in children. Distressed that so many children are suffering but pleased that the paper explodes a piece of C. diff mythology that persists in our healthcare system, where even some physicians cling to a dangerous notion that children don’t get C. diff.

The CDC finding that 17,000 children contract the disease each year, most outside of healthcare settings, is a call to action for healthcare providers. Clinicians should consider whether symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, cramping, and painful diarrhea might be indications of C. diff. When prescribing antibiotics to kids, they should ask themselves whether the drug is absolutely necessary, since antibiotic exposure is a key risk factor for C. diff.

This report also alerts parents to ask doctors whether symptoms they can plainly see are severe and out of the ordinary might be signs of a C. diff infection, especially if their child has recently taken an antibiotic. In the presence of such symptoms, especially when initial treatments don’t work, parents should ask about a stool test.

In 2013, the CDC declared C. diff. an "urgent" public-health threat, placing it first on the list of critical dangers to Americans. But many reports of C. diff focus on adults and seniors in long-term care settings, leading to ignorance of its risks to younger patients.

Angela G., a Brooklyn mother, found this out the hard way when her kids were five and two. Spotting symptoms like fever and diarrhea, she took them to a pediatrician who insisted they had a stomach flu. After escalating symptoms, repeated visits, and finally a trip to the emergency room, a test resulted in the proper diagnosis: C. diff.

"As parents, we know in our gut if something is not right with our children," Angela G. says. Parents "need to not take anything for granted. We need to be advocates for our children and our loved ones."

The CDC report makes clear that C. diff. poses a particular challenge for infants between the age of 12 and 24 months, just as many are beginning to walk.

Gina Del Re, a mother of two on Staten Island, recently endured a three-month bout with C. diff in her 19-month old son Anthony.

"This infection was a beast. It totally took over [his] body. He stopped eating," she says, and had "numerous and horrible diarrhea-like bowel movements throughout the day. His weight was suffering. He wasn’t growing."

After a regimen that finally ridded her son of the bug, Del Re has emerged with a message that echoes Angela G. "As a mother, I want other parents to know if you have a gut feeling something is not right with your child, seek help immediately. Ask lots of questions. No question is stupid or silly. We are our children’s best advocates.”

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

4 comments on “C. diff in Our Kids: A Call to Action”

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    My 7 year old child has just been diagnosed with c diff. The child has taken many antibiotics in the last couple of years. Most recently, Cefdinir and most frequently also. Within three weeks of this most recent Med the child came down with a bout of vomiting. We didn’t really link this to anything. Within five weeks of starting this Med the child had the stomach bug, the child also had a Bellyache ongoing for 25 days before diagnosis.
    Went to the doctor on day 6 of 25 they (Ped) said constipation. They suggested I start the child on a colon cleanse and do five or six doses a day of MiraLAX. I agreed at the doctors office but after leaving there I decided I wasn’t going to do that and bought organic apple juice. Within an hour of an 8 ounce glass of organic apple juice the child produced a normal healthy stool. I hoped that the stomach pain would reduce. Needless to say we were back at the doctors on Day 21 of 25 with 104 fever, Stomach pain and diarrhea. They diagnosed strep with the positive strep culture. Gave penicillin. We went back to the pediatrician 2 days later day 23 of 25 because last year the child had been diagnosed with strep at the urgent care and the pediatrician said it been misdiagnosed and not strep? We wanted second opinion and ask about bellyache still ongoing. The NP told me constipation again for the stomach pain. Luckily the Ped. disagreed with the nurse practitioner and got a more thorough history. He suggested a stool sample, no more penicillin. Start Cefdinir. On day 25 of 27 we were diagnosed with C diff. Our child is 7. This was 27 days of ongoing stomach pain that has continued even with flagyl. 27 days of possible contagious c diff. I hope the Metronidazole will clear up the c diff. We are going to clean the house up. Bleach. Nothing else seems to kill it. We are going to insist on warm soapy water hand washing. We are going to reduce sugar or greatly decrease. We are going to dramatically alter the child’s daily diet and give fermented foods. Why did we do all the research? The Dr didn’t suggest any of the above diet changes? Why? It would help and help the belly pain. You are right. Listen to your child, listen to your gut instinct and do your research.

    I think the information provided by the Peggy Lillis Foundation on this subject is crucial information not only for parents but family practitioners as well. But a question comes to mind. Since c.Diff is most frequently seen in the elder side of the population, especially those that are hospitalized or have spent time in nursing homes, what percentage of pediatric c.Diff is acquired from visits with infected grandparents? I think this is an interesting question that bears some investigation.

    Many thanks to the Peggy Lillis Foundation (via Christian John Lillis) for this critical information. Public health encompasses education of the public and care providers. We need effective treatment and prevention that is discussed openly. The CDC convenes an important partnership with patients/advocates and caregivers. It is a great responsibility that is a matter of life and death for our youngsters.

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Page last reviewed: September 28, 2020
Page last updated: September 28, 2020