What is it?
Intestinal worms are parasites that live on blood or undigested food in the intestines. They primarily affect children
Symptoms: During early worm infestation, it is possible that there may be no outward signs. However, as the worm load becomes greater, look out for these symptoms:
- Pinworm: Itching around the anus, restlessness and irritability, sleeplessness, poor appetite and loss of weight.
- Large roundworm: Frequent coughing (the most frequent symptom), colic, abdominal pain, and worms in the stool or worms coming up the throat into the mouth, possible slight fever.
- Whipworm: Loss of appetite or vomiting, slight fever, anaemia, constipation, blood stained stool, diarhoea and abdominal pain.
- Hookworm: Severe itching of the skin between toes, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, alternating with mild diarrhoea, anaemia and slight fever.
- Tapeworm: Tapeworm segments in stool, irritation and itching around anus, abdominal pain and weight loss.
Causes: Intestinal worms. Human can become infested in different ways depending on the type of worm i.e.
- Eggs may enter the system as eggs in contaminated food. The eggs hatch in the intestine and a few weeks later the female worm lays eggs around the anal region. Eggs are transferred directly via the fingers to the mouth which causes reinfestination, or are carried on toys, blankets and pets to other children.
- By inhalation of infective eggs. Worms’s are so tiny you can’t see them with the naked eye. They float on dust and can easily be inhaled.
- Worm eggs can be picked up on garden soil, on vegetables and salads, on sandpits, beach sand, in playgrounds or from someone who already has worms.
- Infective larvae may enter the skin when you walk barefoot on contaminated soil.
Possible complications: Nocturnal itching of the anus region, followed by scratching and spreading of infestation, abdominal discomfort, and rarely pain. Sometimes anaemia, children who are not treated for worm infestations may have stunted growth.
Treatment in the home: Consult your pharmacist and give worm treatment; since the incubation period is several weeks, it is wise to repeat the treatment after two to three weeks, Scrupulous personal hygiene is essential-wash your hands after going to the toilet, handling a pet or before touching foods, keep fingernails short and scrubbed, change bedlinen and underwear frequently. Wash these in hot water; hang out to air and iron, Vacuum rooms thoroughly. If reinfestetion occurs, the entire family should be treated, even those who have no symptoms.
When to consult a doctor: As soon as worn infestation is suspected.
What the doctor may do: Prescribe an appropriate worm treatment; prescribe an ointment to relieve anal itching.