Soil-borne helminth infections are one among the most common infections in humans, caused by a group of parasites, referred to as worms, including roundworms, whipworms and hookworms. These intestinal worms can seriously affect the nutrition and growth of the child. A child may undergo deworming regularly to remove the intestinal worms. Such worms need to be killed, otherwise, they can multiply and lay eggs in the intestine causing major damage to the body. Some of those intestinal parasites may even be fatal and should therefore not be overlooked. Worms also make the child more vulnerable to diseases such as intestinal obstruction and reduce the ability to sufficiently absorb vitamins. Parasitic worms also sometimes allow the child to become malnourished and/or stunted even without obvious symptoms. India accounts for 65% of soil-transmitted helminth (parasitic worms) cases in South East Asia, and 27% of cases globally. 225 million Indian preschool and school-age children are estimated to be at risk of WI.
Let us first understand the common worms that can infect children and adults:
Tapeworms: These are flat, ribbon-like worms that can grow up to 15-30 ft and live in the intestine
Roundworms: They resemble earthworms and can grow up to the size of 30-35 cm
Pinworms or thread-worms: These worms appear to be fine white cottony threads and live in intestine and around anus.
Hookworms: These are commonly contracted when children walk barefoot on the contaminated soil and later enter intestine
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF WORM INFESTATION
In most of the cases children have no symptoms. Parents discover worms in stool and know that their child has worm infestation. However some of the signs and symptoms associated with worm infestation are as follows-
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Sometimes weight loss despite eating too frequently
- Itching around anus and painful urination- These are commonly seen in thread worm infection. These worms creep out and lay eggs near anus especially at night. This leads to itching and poor quality of sleep.
- Diarrhea and passing worms with stools
- Fever and dry cough is associated with roundworm infection.
- Coughing, wheezing (breathing difficulty) is seen with hookworm infection when it reaches lungs.
- Anemia and fatigue is also associated with severe hookworm infection.
- In severe cases a bunch of worms can also block the intestine and cause intestinal obstruction.
- Hookworm can give skin lesions at its site of entry through human feet.
Importance of Deworming:
Deworming helps to remove worms and any infection that might disturb the patient and it is important for those infected by these worms. Deworming is thought to improve the health of the child by enabling them to consume the necessary nutrients needed by the body, thereby helping the child to battle malnutrition and gain weight.
WHO recommends that school children in endemic areas be treated regularly with drugs that kill those worms and thus either help eliminate or significantly reduce infections.
Treatment for worms in children:
Based on the factors such as child’s age, type of worm that has infested the intestines, the infections caused by the worm etc, treatment is recommended.
Being a short and quick treatment, the deworming medicines for children usually kill the parasites and cause no other harsh damage to your child’s body.
How does the treatment work?
Albendazole, a deworming tablet is given twice a year to the child to destroy the parasitic worms. By following this, the children expel worms through stool and will be able to absorb necessary vitamins and other nutrients when free from parasitic worms.
How do children get affected?
Intestinal worms or parasites are usually found among children exposed to the unclean environment, and mostly in direct contact with the soil.
Soil is likely to be contaminated with worm-eggs or larvae in areas that lack sanitation or are populated by animals. Children who play in these areas or those who roam barefoot are likely to be affected by these worms. Dirty hands, tools, toys or food are easy transmission instruments for these parasites, which can go from the contaminated soil to the mouth of the child and eventually inside the body and intestine.
Some tips to prevent worms in children include:
- Maintain a clean surrounding
- Inculcate clean habits in the child, whenever he/she comes from playing
- Educate the child to not play barefoot in the grass, mud or outdoor areas
- Assure that the child only uses clean and hygienic swimming pools
- Avoid the infested fruit or vegetable. Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly before the child eats them
- Do not let the child consume raw meats, semi-cooked vegetables which could have worms in them
- Unless it is safe, let the child have no water from public tanks. Try drinking boiled water
It is therefore important to manage a clean and healthy environment for children so that they can be rescued from these worms and are therefore not in need of deworming and can lead a healthier life.
Prevention of Worm Infestation
If you need any further information, you can comment below or call Motherhood Chaitanya Hospital at 0172-5088088, 01762-509503.