How worm infections worm their way into your life

Sprinter (spring meets winter) is here. Warmer weather and sunny afternoons mean younger children will get to play outdoors again. Consequently, this time of year corresponds to many parents visiting the pharmacy to ask for worming treatments for their children. 

Worms, also known as gastrointestinal helminths, are thought to cause various problems in children. If a child is not eating enough or eating too much, not growing well, or not doing well overall, family members or friends might suggest that worms are the reason behind it.

Threadworm infections

Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections are one of the most prevalent health challenges globally, affecting a staggering estimated 1.5 billion individuals, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s population

There are different types of worms that both children and adults can get, but most parents are asking about how to prevent or treat threadworms specifically.

Threadworm, also known as pinworm, is a small white worm that looks like a thread, about a centimeter long. It’s a type of roundworm that is often found in young children, especially those in preschool and school age, but the whole family can get it too.

Here’s what threadworms look like so that you know what to watch out for! Image source.

Children tend to get threadworms by getting tiny eggs on their hands and then putting their hands in their mouths. When they swallow the eggs, they go to their lower intestine and become worms. These worms move to the anus and lay more eggs, making the area itchy.

The worms usually come out at night to lay eggs, and if you scratch the itchy area and don’t wash your hands, the eggs can go back into your mouth, starting the cycle again.

Threadworm eggs can spread from person to person, but they can also live on toys and surfaces for up to 2 weeks. If you touch your mouth after touching a contaminated toy or surface, you can get infected too.

It’s important to know that people can’t get threadworms from animals; it’s only passed between humans.

How to spot a threadworm infection

The symptoms of a threadworm infection can vary, and some may not experience any symptoms at all. Common signs of a threadworm infection include:

  • Itching around the bottom: This is one of the most typical symptoms. The itching is often worse at night. The bottom may look red on lighter skin or brown, purple, or grey on darker skin.

  • Difficulty sleeping: The itching can be bothersome, leading to sleep disturbances.

  • Irritability: Children, in particular, may become irritable due to discomfort from the itching.

  • Restlessness or disturbed behavior: Children may experience restlessness or trouble concentrating due to the discomfort caused by the infection.

  • Visible worms in stool: Sometimes, adult female worms can be seen in the stool

If you suspect a threadworm infection, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment and prevention

For treating threadworms, medicines like Mebendazole and Pyrantel are available without a prescription. Albendazole is a more potent medicine but requires a prescription. 

When giving the medicine to a child, make sure they take a shower that night and again the next morning. This helps remove any eggs the worms may have laid during the night.

If a worm infection has been diagnosed, the treatment should be repeated after two weeks to get rid of any newly hatched worms. This helps to avoid reinfection. It’s essential for all family members, caregivers, and close contacts to take the worm medicine at the same time. Even adults can get threadworm, so it’s crucial for everyone to be treated together.

Importantly, the medicines used for threadworm are meant to TREAT the infection; they are not meant to PREVENT it from happening.

To prevent the spread of worms, it’s important to wash bedding, clothes, toys, and towels in hot water and let them dry in the sun if possible. Vacuum the floors regularly and clean surfaces that kids touch a lot, like door handles, toys, toilets, tables, and chairs.

Practice good hygiene habits like washing hands often, keeping fingernails short, and not sharing bath towels. Make sure to bathe daily as well.

Encourage children not to share food with others or pick food up from the floor. It’s important to discourage them from nail-biting and thumb-sucking. If needed, you can put gloves or bandages on their hands, especially at night. 

These simple hygiene practices can help keep everyone healthy and prevent the worms from spreading.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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