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Parasitic Worms

Symptoms and treatment of worms in children

Parasitic worm infections are extremely common in children, and chances are that your child will experience at least one infection in his or her lifetime. Like head lice, worms are easily transferred from person to person through close contact with infected surfaces. Since most parasitic worms are intestinal, this normally means that using the same bedding or toilet as the infected person can expose you to the worms. The good news, however, is that worms in children are easily treated and rarely cause complication.

Types of Parasitic Worms

Children may experience different types of intestinal worms. Roundworms are 1 millimeter to 1 meter long and are contracted through contact with the soil in which the eggs reside. Pinworms are the most common parasitic worm infection and are also transferred by contact between dirt and the mouth. They are approximately a centimeter long and are white in color.

Other parasitic worms include hookworms, which may cause anemia, and tapeworms, also called flatworms, which are fairly rare.

Different worms cause different symptoms, but the main symptoms of pinworms and roundworms include:

  • Itching of the anus or, in girls, the vagina
  • Worms in stool or in toilet after the child eliminates
  • Presence of worms on the genitals and anus after the child is asleep
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Fever, diarrhea and vomiting (only occasionally)

Roundworms may also cause abdominal pain and cough.

Treatment for Parasite Worms

Your doctor will determine if your child has worms by asking you to place a piece of tape on the child's anus. This will pick up any eggs that the female worm has laid. Under a microscope, the doctor will be able to diagnose your child's worms and prescribe treatment.

Treatment for worms normally comes in the form of an oral solution or pill, which kills the adult worms. The eggs, however, are not killed, so extreme precautions must be taken when dealing with a child who has parasitic worms. Wash all bedding and clothing in extremely hot water and do not allow the infected child to share a bed or clothes with anyone. Also clean toilets carefully with bleach.

Parasitic worms are annoying, but they rarely cause any complication if they are treated. Left untreated, worms can cause inflammation of the digestive organs, malnutrition or appendicitis.

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