Sometimes, even with a clean environment and proper precautions, children can get infected by parasites such as tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm and pinworm and whipworms. Away from home, children are often exposed to contaminated environments in school, daycare, at the playground and in other people’s homes. Worm infections have severe health implications in parts of the world where it is endemic.
How worms damage your child’s health
Worm infections can cause major health problems for young children.
- The worms use up the vitamins and nutrients that children need for growth.
- This can then lead to malnutrition, low weight, Iron and Vitamin A deficiency and anaemia.
- This ultimately harms the infected children’s future physical and intellectual development.
- They cause loss of appetite, leading to reduced food intake, which further affects physical growth and development.
- Infected children also are more prone to illness, as their immune systems are damaged.
Deworming simply means treating your child with a one-dose medicine to either treat an existing worm infection or to protect against potential infection. Deworming protects your child from the potentially devastating effects of worm infestation on physical growth and mental development.
For years, the WHO has recommended treating children from 13 months old, with anti-helminthics (worm-killing drugs) every 6 months in endemic areas of the world. This covers much of Africa and Asia. Deworming is not recommended for children less than 1 year old.
Deworming drugs kill adult worms, but do not kill the eggs. It’s therefore important to repeat the treatment every six months. Deworming medicines for children should be based on your child’s age and weight so it’s not advisable to simply pick up a generic brand and dose at the local chemist. It is safer to have your doctor prescribe the appropriate medicine and dosage for your child.
How to prevent worm infestation
You can limit your children’s risk of getting infected by worms by taking some simple measures. Make sure they:
- Wash hands well with soap after playing outdoors or with pets and before each meal
- Do not eat unwashed salads, fruits and vegetables
- Do not eat under-cooked meat
- Do not play barefoot when outside or at daycare or school
- Swim only where the hygiene standards are met
- Only drink water that is boiled, bottled or filtered
- Do not share water bottles in school
Keep your home environment clean and provide proper sanitation if at all possible.
If you have a household help who is in constant contact with your child, do ensure she keeps good hygiene as well. It might not be a bad idea to recommend that she deworms herself too.