Worms in children are a common problem and a source of great distress to the children as well as the parents. Children may get infected with several types of worms like pinworms, roundworms, ringworms, tapeworms, etc.
Pinworm infections and round worm infection or ascariasis are the most common type of worm infections in children.
The worm eggs enter the body through the oral cavity or mouth and lodge or attach themselves in the intestines. They then suck up the nutrients and the juices in the food items resulting in undernourishment of the child and subsequent weight loss.
Symptoms of worms in children
Some of the symptoms of worms in children are as follows:
For pinworm infection-
• The worms travel down the intestine and come out of the anus at night time or early morning. The female pinworms may lay their eggs in the lining around the anus. This results in intense itching of the bottom in children. A child who constantly scratches his/her bottom may be infected with worms.
• The worms eat up all the nourishment in the children. So even though a child may have a healthy and proper diet, he/she may be malnourished resulting in loss of weight, becoming lean and decreases in body immunity
• There will be increased instances of abdominal irritation and pain complaints in children who are infected with worms.
• Other symptoms that are not so severe in children infected with worms are loss of appetite, insomnia, increased irritability, stomach upsets and constant restlessness.
For roundworm infection or ascariasis-
• The round worms may affect the lungs as well as the intestines in children.
• After incubation, the larvae move up the lymphatic system or bloodstream to the lungs which may result in symptoms similar to pneumonia or asthma. Shortness of breath, chronic or persistent cough and wheezing are some of the symptoms of lung infection with roundworms. The child may eventually cough up the larvae through the throat and re-ingest them.
• The larvae usually live out their life and die in the intestines. Mild infection with roundworms may show symptoms such as vomiting and nausea, bloody stools, diarhea and a vague pain in the abdomen in children. Severe cases of roundworm infections in children may show signs such as worms in stool or vomit, increased tiredness or fatigue, loss in weight, chronic and extreme pains of the abdomen, nausea and vomiting.
Causes and spread of worms in children
Some of the causes and risk factors of worms in children are as follows:
• The micro eggs of the pinworms are present in the house dust, the pillows, bed sheets, towels, etc. The children may come in contact with such materials infected with the worm eggs and transport them to their mouths with their fingers.
• Other carriers of worm eggs or pin worms are contaminated or adulterated food, water, sand or soil.
• Children who live in warmer climates and unsanitary or unhygienic conditions are at greater risk to develop worm infections than others.
• Round worms are transmitted via contact with human fecal material present in the soil or the fruits and vegetables grown in contaminated soil. Children usually tend to play in sands and soil in playground and are highly susceptible to develop roundworm infection
Treatment of worms in children
The treatment and preventive methods of worms in children are listed below:
• Medications such as anthelmintic, mebendazole, albendazole, pyrantel pamoate and ivermectin are prescribed by doctors in safe dosage to treat worm infections, both roundworms as well as pinworms.
• Sometimes it may be necessary to get topical therapy for the worm eggs
• Parents must see to it that the children maintain a good and high standard of personal hygiene. Also, extra care must be taken to prevent worm infections in children while travelling.
• The undergarments, bed sheets, etc should be thoroughly washed and disinfected to prevent worm infections. In addition, high standards of sanitation and uncontaminated food and water are essential in the prevention of worms in children.