Giardiasis is a tummy bug that causes symptoms like diarrhoea, farting and bloating. It usually goes away in about a week if it's treated, but it can sometimes last much longer.
How giardiasis is spread
There are lots of ways you can catch giardiasis, such as:
- drinking water that's not been treated to kill germs
- water getting in your mouth while swimming in places like lakes, rivers or swimming pools
- eating food that's been washed in untreated water or handled by someone with the infection
- touching surfaces that have been touched by an infected person
- having sex – especially unprotected anal and oral sex
You can become infected if small bits of poo from an infected person get in your mouth.
Symptoms of giardiasis
The main symptoms of giardiasis are:
- smelly diarrhoea
- tummy pain or cramps
- farting (flatulence)
- smelly burps – they may smell like eggs
- weight loss
You can have giardiasis and spread it to others without having any symptoms.
Non-urgent advice: Call a GP surgery or 111 if:
- you have had diarrhoea for more than a week
- you have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom
It's best to call rather than visit the GP surgery as you might have an infection that can spread easily to others.
Tell the GP if you have recently travelled abroad.
Treatment for giardiasis
A GP may send off a sample of your poo for tests to check if you have giardiasis.
It's treated with antibiotics for a few days. Your symptoms should stop in about a week, but they can sometimes last longer.
Go back to a GP if you still have symptoms a week after starting treatment.
They might give you more antibiotics or refer you to a specialist for treatment.
Sometimes the people you live with may also need to be tested and treated.
How to look after yourself if you have giardiasis
drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration, such as water and squash – if you're well hydrated, your pee should be light yellow or clear
give your baby breast or bottle feeds as usual
wash your hands with soap and water frequently
separate clothing and bedding that may have poo on it from other laundry and wash it on a hot wash
clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles regularly
do not drink alcohol while taking your antibiotics – alcohol can react with the main antibiotics used to treat giardiasis
do not prepare food for other people, if possible
do not share towels, wash cloths, flannels, cutlery and utensils
do not use a swimming pool until 2 weeks after your symptoms stop
You're most infectious from when your symptoms start until 2 days after they have passed. Stay off school or work until your symptoms have stopped for 2 days.
A pharmacist can help if you're dehydrated
Speak to a pharmacist if you have signs of dehydration, such as peeing less than usual or having dark, strong-smelling pee.
They may recommend using sachets that you mix with water to help you stay hydrated, called oral rehydration solutions.
Page last reviewed: 1 December 2020
Next review due: 1 December 2023