Do you know that the tummy pain and vomiting on and off that your child has had for a few weeks could quite possibly be because of worm infestation?
Sometimes, even with a clean environment and proper precautions, children can get infected by parasites such as tapeworm, roundworm, hookworm and pinworm and whipworms. The bottom line is that away from home, children are often exposed to contaminated environments in school, daycare, at the playground and in other people’s homes.
Who’s at risk for worm infestation?
Sub-Saharan Africa is endemic for soil and water borne worm infestation. Children tend to be most affected, as their immune systems are weaker than those of adults. Pregnant women and women of childbearing age are also at risk.
What are the symptoms?
Usually there are no symptoms or the symptoms may be so mild that they are often overlooked. But a child with worms may have a tummy ache, weight loss and may be irritable.
Other common signs can include:
- Loss of appetite due to the pain or discomfort in the tummy
- Anemia – especially with hookworms
- Rash – particularly hives
- Itching or pain around the anus
- Difficulty sleeping because of the itchiness
- Painful and frequent urination due to urinary tract infection – this is more common in girls
- Blood in the stool
- Vomiting – children can vomit out round worms, though rare.
- Diarrhea – usually with whipworm infection.
The many ways your child can be infected by worms
The infection, is transmitted by worm eggs excreted in the faeces of infected humans which cause contamination in areas where proper sanitation is lacking and good hygiene is not practiced.
This is the most common way children get worms. Worms thrive in any soil that is dirty and damp. Children can get infected from walking barefoot on infected soil, from unclean hands or from food.
Infected water areas
Some types of worms breed in water. They can be found in lakes, dams and puddles. Playing, bathing and swimming in these areas, or drinking and eating food contaminated by the water, can cause a worm infection.
Undercooked or infected food
Worm eggs stay on plants and vegetables that have not been thoroughly washed. Anyone can be infected, by eating these vegetables, including animals that live along water areas, such as fish and cattle. Meat and fish that are raw, or not well cooked, can carry worms and infections.
Contact with an infected person
An infected person who is in contact with your child can pass the infection on to your child if they do not maintain proper hygiene. Worm eggs can remain beneath fingernails or on badly washed hands and can pass on from there to your child’s toys or directly into the mouth.
In our next post we’ll discuss prevention.