Is your child scratching their bottom…a lot? Chances are, they might have worms!
It’s gross to think about, but worms are everywhere! They all look different, some round and others flat, and they all have the ability to affect the body in a different way. Children are often the most vulnerable in terms of getting and passing on worms because their hygiene habits are just not as developed as adults.
Pretty much kids will all need worming every six months – and more if you have animals!
The most common types of worm infections are caused by:
Luckily treating worms is very simple and usually only involves a trip to the local Chemist.
So How Do You ‘Get’ Worms?
Worms are extremely common. They are usually picked up when kids play in the dirt, lack of hand-washing hygiene, playing with animals and generally being outside! It is a good idea when treating worms to treat the entire family (including any animals you might have), and then also:
- Washing all linen in hot water
- Treat the entire family – including Mum, Dad and any animals
- Change your child’s nappies regularly.
- Keep your house clean and use quality disinfectant.
- Teach children how to wash their hands thoroughly, including under the fingernails.
- Keep your toilet clean.
- Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly with clean water before eating or cooking.
- Always boil drinking water if you’re unsure of the quality (usually when overseas).
Now let’s look at the common types of worms – and how to treat them.
Threadworms are very common in Australia and New Zealand and are pretty much considered a ‘norm’ for children in these countries to have at some stage in their childhood.
Threadworms (also known as pinworms) are spread through the ingestion of their eggs. Their eggs are often found on the hands and under fingernails, especially if your child hasn’t washed their hands properly after playing in dirt or going to the toilet.
Children scratch their bodies and put their fingers in the mouths all the time, so the eggs are quite easily spread.
The Symptoms of Thread Worm Infestation
Symptoms of a threadworm infestation are most common in the evening with children, as this is when the worms are quite active. They include:
- Disturbed Sleep
- Itchy Bottom
- Easily Irritated
- Loss of Appetite and Poor Eating Habits
The worms can also be seen around the anus at night (if you shine a torch at the area), or they can be noticed in your child’s stools. If you suspect an infestation, it’s worth having a look before you go see you doctor.
Treatment and Prevention
You can prevent threadworms in a number of different ways. It pays to start by teaching your child to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet or playing in dirt or mud. The eggs of the threadworms can survive for many weeks on bedding, clothing and carpets, so you will need to make sure to keep the house clean and ensure that your children’s clothes are regularly washed.
In Australia, many children have lived with threadworms without receiving proper treatment for extended periods. When the female threadworms lay their eggs, they will then live inside the body of the child. If the child doesn’t re-infect themselves, it is possible to naturally outgrow the infection of the threadworms. However, medicine intervention is a much better option.
You can try using some over-the-counter medications (such as Combantrin) along with regular reminders about proper hygiene. If they find the itching is unbearable, you can use some nappy rash cream to sooth the anal area. If the condition seems severe or does not settle, you should seek further medical advice.
Roundworms are a common type of worm that affects children throughout the world, although luckily they remain rare in Australia. However, roundworm infestations do pop up in some areas of Australia more than others – usually in the warmer, tropical climates. They cause an infection called “Ascariasis”. They can live inside the body years and are usually found in the small intestines.
Roundworms will live in the soil, bowel movements or contaminated faeces. Of course, children tend to play in the dirt and put their fingers in their mouths a lot, so this can increase the incidence of roundworm entering their system.
Symptoms of Round Worm
There are many symptoms of the presence of roundworms in the child’s body. If a child swallows the roundworm eggs, they are transferred to the intestine and then this will hatch into a larva. The larva can get through the walls of the intestines and into the blood. This will then be transferred to the lungs and even the throat.
The common symptoms of the roundworm infection include the following:
- Coughing and Wheezing
- Loss of Appetite
- Stomach Pain
- Worms coming out from the mouth or nose
- Worms that look like earthworms in the bowel movement
- Diarrhoea (sometimes with streaks of blood)
- Weight Loss
- Delayed Growth
In cases where the worms have blocked the intestines, the child might experience abdominal pain and vomiting.
Treatment and Prevention of Roundworm
Before the treatment, the doctor will need to make a proper diagnosis. The doctor will ask for a stool sample from the child, the faeces will then be examined to determine if there is any infection.
For the treatment, the doctor can recommend the use of medication. This will most likely be an anti-parasitic medication. In severe cases, if the infection has progressed without treatment, surgery may be required to repair damage left by the worms and to eliminate any remaining worms in the bowel. However, it is unlikely that the infestation could have progressed so far without parents being aware of it.
Tapeworms get their name as they are very ‘flat’ and look like tape. Tapeworms are not that common in first-world countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Although they live in your bowel and digestive system, Tapeworms are not considered dangerous.
The scary thing about Tapeworms is that they can live for up to thirty years and can get very large. They reproduce at a rapid rate once the head of the Tapeworm attaches itself to the inner wall of the intestine.
How Do People Get Tapeworms:
Tapeworms are usually spread via contaminated food. Unwashed fruit or vegetables or meat that has not been prepared or cooked properly.
Symptoms of Tapeworm include:
- Tummy Pain
- Weight Loss
In very rare cases, Tapeworms can get into a child’s appendix causing appendicitis or an inflamed gall bladder.
Most all-round worming treatments will treat Tapeworm infestation.
Hooksworms are mostly found in third-world or developing countries where the hygiene is less than desirable. They flourish in hot, tropical climates. Hookworm symptoms include:
- Tummy Pain
- Blood in Poo
- Lack of Appetite
Hookworms are spread via contact with contaminated soil. The larvae in the soil is picked up with hands and transferred to the mouth. They then grow in the small intestine for up to a year before passing through into your poo.
Pets are more likely to be infected with Hookworms – and contact is made via walking in an area with no shoes where a pet has defecated.
Special medical treatment is required to eradicate Hookworms. Patients also have to watch that they are not anemic so your doctor might give you a iron supplement.
Whipworms are mostly found in hot tropical climates in areas with poor sanitation and are passed on via contaminated water or faeces. Some of the symptoms of Whipworm is quite severe. They can include:
- Diarrhea with blood
- Tummy Pain
- Weight Loss
- Fecal Incontinence
Whipworm infections are picked up via a tested stools sample. The usual remedy for Whipworm infections are an anti-parasitic medication taken from one to three days. Your Doctor will usually do another stool sample to confirm the infection is gone.
Over the Counter Worming Medications
Luckily worms are very easy to treat with over the counter worming medications. Here are the most commonly available treatments that are available over the counter at your local chemist:
Natural Treatments for Deworming Kids
As well as the over the counter medications, there are a number of natural remedies you can try that may ease some of the discomfort of worms in kids.
Garlic is a natural remedy against worms as it contains amino acids that contain sulfur which can kill worms. For kids the best way is to crush one clove and mix it into a glass of milk.
Pumpkin Seeds or Pepitas are delicious to snack on. Include a handful in the lunch box every day – they are a natural way of killing worms.