This is a subject that most parents will avoid as it is rather off-putting but in reality intestinal worm infection is extremely common and spread easily making children particularly susceptible. Once detected, they are relatively quick to get rid of.
There are a number of different types of intestinal worms but the most common is the Pinworm or Threadworm. It is whitish and about 1 cm long, looking just like a small thread hence the name. This worm type only affects humans and one cannot get them from pets. The cycle normally starts by picking up the eggs on the hands. Your child then puts their hands into their mouths and this is how they get into the body. The eggs hatch out in the small intestine and move down to the large bowel where they can live for weeks. When the adult worm is ready to lay eggs, it moves out the anus and lays them on the skin around the anus. This process usually occurs at night or early morning. The itching sensation causes the child to scratch and the eggs can be picked up under the fingernails as well as spreading them to bedclothes and other surfaces.
This is how the vicious circle begins. These eggs can live for a couple of weeks therefore waiting for someone else to come along and pick them up. Or your child will be re-infected by putting their hands in their mouth. The eggs are so tiny and cannot be seen.
How did my child get worms?
- Walking around barefoot on infected soil. These worms thrive in any soil that is dirty and damp therefore the sandpit can be a wonderful breeding ground
- Playing in contaminated water or eating unclean food
- Toilets and bathrooms
- From surfaces like tables for older children or floors for crawling babies
- Babies toys that go into their mouth
- Contamination from playmates
- Sharing clothes and bedding
What are the symptoms of a worm infection?
- loss of appetite due to the pain or discomfort in the tummy
- itching around the anus
- trouble sleeping because of the itchiness
- painful and frequent urination due to urinary tract infection – this is more common in girls
- blood in the stool
How to treat worm infections?
All worm infections can be treated with oral medication prescribed by your doctor. Avoid over the counter medication as treatment must be based on the type of worm infection. Some may also not be suitable for young babies.
Deworming as a precaution is a good idea as worm infections are spread so easily. It may be advisable for your whole family to undergo treatment just to be safe.
How to prevent getting worms?
- Change your baby’s nappies regularly.
- Avoid dirty, moist sand pits and soil.
- Instil good hygiene ensuring that your family washes their hands with soap before meals and after the toilet.
- Keep your child’s nails short and clean. Worm eggs get caught under long fingernails and spread around the house.
- Wash all fruit and vegetables.
- Discourage children putting things in their mouths i.e. toys.
- Ensure regular clean bed linen and pyjamas.