What are parasitic worms?
Parasitic worms are disease causing worms that live inside the human body, or in animals, and their nourishment from their host. Some of the most common parasitic worms are pinworms (also known as threadworms), tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms.
Parasitic worms lay eggs and contaminate food, water, air, faeces, pets and wild animals. They can also contaminate objects that are handled often by large numbers of people. Examples of these are toilet seats, door handles, paper bills and coins. These eggs enter the human body through the mouth, nose, anus, feet and hands. Inside the body, worm eggs lodge in the intestine then hatch, grow and multiply.
What are the common types of worms? There are 3 types of parasitic worms:
- Flat worms - for example, tapeworm
- Flukes - for example, blood flukes
- Roundworms - for example, threadworms and pinworms
feed on the blood, tissue, fluids, or pieces of cells in the body of their hosts. These usually thrive in skin, mouth, gills or other outside parts of the body. They can also thrive internally and infect the blood and organs. These vary in size from being microscopic to longer than 20 metres. Tapeworms
thrive in human intestines and feed on the partially digested food of their host. This environment is fully protected, making it a perfect place to grow and thrive. These simply survive by feeding off their host's nutrients.
Flukes have at least one external sucker that they use to attach to their host. This type live in gills, skin or outside their host's body. However, the blood fluke lives inside the human or animal host body. This type of parasitic worm thrives only in very hot tropical places like North Africa and South East Asia. Roundworms
- the most common types are pinworms or threadworms, hookworms and heartworms. These can be characterized by their hollow bodies with openings at either end. In general, roundworms grow between 2-5 inches long. They are commonly found in pets and animals. Dogs and cats are their usual hosts and these worms are easily passed on to humans. Roundworms live in salt water, fresh water and soil.
What are the common signs that you may be infected with parasitic worms? Signs of parasitic infection vary from person to person, but some of the common experiences are:
- Persistent abdominal swelling - a frequent sign of hidden invaders.
- Itchiness around the anus
- Skin conditions such as hives, rashes, weeping sores and other allergic-type skin reactions.
- Restlessness & anxiety. Parasitic metabolic wastes and toxic substances can serve as irritants to the central nervous system. Restlessness and anxiety are often the result of a systemic parasite infestation.
- General lethargy and unusual energy level fluctuations.
- Frequent gas and bloating.
- Bowel upsets.
- Joint and muscle aches and pains.
- Food allergies: Sometimes, parasites can irritate and even perforate the intestinal lining, so that large undigested molecules enter the bloodstream, which would not ordinarily do so.
How do you get infected with parasitic worms?
- There are many means by which worm infestation can spread:
- Through transmitting agents such as mosquitoes, fleas and flies.
- In the air we breathe.
- By petting infected animals and not washing our hands afterwards.
- By eating contaminated food.
- Badly cooked or uncooked foods such as beef, pork, poultry and fish.
- By eating fruits and vegetables that contain parasites.
- By drinking contaminated water.
- In areas where sanitation or sewer systems are lacking or badly maintained parasites and worms can quickly multiply.
- Parasites can commonly be found in mud pools, stagnant ponds, streams, rivers.
- By swimming in small or large pools where water is not properly maintained or regularly replaced.
- By practicing bad hygiene in toilets and other public places.
How do you prevent getting infected with parasitic worms?
- Always wash hands after stroking an animal, or using the toilet.
- Take off outdoor shoes by the front door.
- Shower and clean the house regularly, particularly linen and bedding.
- Cook meat thoroughly.
- Ensure the best possible sources of meat.
- Reduce consumption of raw beef, pork or fish.
- Wash all fruit, salads and vegetables before use and rinse all meats before preparation.
- Drink water that has been properly filtered.
- Regularly de-worm your pets or animals. Give them their own bedding! Try not to allow pets to sleep on pillows, sheets or towels.
- Eat plenty of friendly probiotics as they help to eliminate unfriendly bacteria in the intestine.
- Wash your hands when you come home from work.
- Carry a hand disinfectant with you to use during the day.
- When disposing of pet waste, make sure you wear gloves and/or a mask, and do not inhale close to it.
- Minimise mould-build up at home & try to keep your home bug-free!
How do you treat parasitic worms in children?
The simplest way to eliminate parasitic worms is by using a deworming medication or product. There are many types of deworming medicine for kids but the most commonly prescribed are those that contain the active ingredient mebendazole or albendazole. Examples of these are Combantrin and Vermox. Page updated 06/04/18 12:47:36 p.m.