Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a serious disease that affects the kidneys and the ability to clot blood. In severe cases, the red blood cells are destroyed, resulting in anemia and kidney failure. It is a rare disease that affects children more often than adults.

In most cases, hemolytic uremic syndrome is caused by infection with the bacteria E. coli O157:H7 which is a type of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. However, most individuals infected with E. coli O157:H7 do not develop hemolytic uremic syndrome. Infections occur after eating contaminated food, such as undercooked meat or dairy products, or through contact with a person who has infectious diarrhea.


Five to 10 days after exposure to E. coli O157:H7, you may experience symptoms. This includes diarrhea, fever, nausea or vomiting. In some cases, irritability, fatigue, extreme paleness and a decrease in urine production may occur. E. coli O157:H7 produce a toxin that can cause damage to the kidneys and blood clotting system. Neurological symptoms can be present when the disease starts or develop during the course of illness.


Follow these measures to prevent hemolytic uremic syndrome.

  • Wrap fresh meat in plastic bags to prevent blood from dripping on other foods.
  • Refrigerate food promptly.
  • Wash cutting boards and counters immediately after use to prevent cross contamination with other foods.
  • Ensure that food reaches the correct internal cooking temperatures.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.
  • Avoid raw dairy products such as raw cheese
  • Avoid raw juices sold in stores
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap.
  • Stay home when sick.


Diarrhea caused by E. coli O157:H7 infection usually resolves over a few days without specific treatment. Antibiotics are not recommended. Antibiotics may increase the release of harmful toxins and risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome. It is important to prevent and treat dehydration. Hemolytic uremic syndrome requires hospitalization for kidney dialysis.