- What is worm infestation and how does it affect children ?
There are many worms that can enter the human body by mouth or through the skin.
Worms are parasites that use up the nutrients meant for the human body. Worm infestation in children can lead to Malnutrition, Anemia, Vitamin A deficiency, Iron-deficiency Anemia, Impaired Cognition, Decreased Concentration, Reduced Attention Span and Poor School Performance.
- How do worms spread from one child to another ?
Worms spread from one child to another through direct contact or by sharing of toys, stationary, articles and other objects (fomites).
- A Fomite is any object or substance capable of carrying infectious organisms, such as germs or parasites, and hence transferring them from one individual to another.
Certain kinds of worms like Hookworms can also spread by contact with soil (such as playing in sand or walking barefoot).
Consumption of contaminated food & water and ingestion of raw fruits, vegetables & undercooked meat are other sources of worm infestation.
- How common is worm infestation ?
Worm infestation affects nearly a billion people worldwide. Although, any age group can be affected, it is found most commonly in school-age children.Worm infestation is more common in developing countries due to poor hygiene and sanitation.According to the World Health Organization, India is a high-endemic zone for Worm Infestation where the prevalence in certain areas is as high as 70 % of children in the school-going age group.
- What are the effects of worm infestation in children ?
Worms are parasites that reside in a person’s intestines and can suck / drain a person of his / her precious nutrients.Research shows that upto 5 % of calories of what a child eats can be lost to worms in the intestines. When this adds up over several days, weeks and months, it can take a toll on the child’s health and well-being.
Worm infestation can also produce intestinal blood loss that eventually leads to Iron-Deficiency Anemia.
Children with heavy worm infestation can have vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, distension and cramps. Some of these children can pass worms in their stools or even vomit them.Some kinds of worm infestation (cuteaneous larva migrans) can produce symptoms like cough, difficulty breathing, fever& skin rash.
Certain worms (like pinworms) can cause severe itching around the anal area (especially during the night).
But, most of the times – worm infestation is dreadful and yet silent – producing weight loss, affecting growth, causing fatigue and leading to learning difficulties & poor school performance in children.
- What are the different kinds of worm infestation in children?There are different kinds of worms that infest human beings. The most common worm infestation in the world is Hookworm infestation, affecting nearly 600 million people worldwide. Besides this, humans can be infested with the Round Worms, Whip Worms, Pin Worms or Tape Worms.
- How do we find out if a child is infested with worms ?Worm infestation in children can be diagnosed by doing a stool test. A stool sample is collected and sent to the lab where a microscopic analysis is done to detect worms& their eggs in the stool. But, this is often unnecessary. If your child lives in an area that is endemic for worm infestation (the World Health Organization categorizes India as an area that is highly endemic for worm infestation), it is appropriate to assume that he or she is infested with worms and treat him or her empirically with deworming medicine.
- How do I treat worm infestation ?
Deworming medicines (medicines used to treat worm infestation) are considered to be among the safest of all medications with either minimal or no side-effects.
That is why, the World Health Organization recommends that all school-going children in India be treated with deworming medicine once every 6 months.
The deworming medicine that is widely recommended by most health agencies is Albendazole.
Children can receive this medicine from 1 year of age onwards in the following doses: Children – Age: 1 yr – 2 yrs :Albendazole 200 mg
(Most Albendazole Syrups contain 400 mg in 10 ml. So, you would need to administer 5 ml for a child who is 1 – 2 years old).
Children – Age: 2 years and above: Albendazole 400 mg
(Children 2 years and above can either receive 10 ml of the 400 mg /10 ml syrup or 400 mg tablet. Some brands of Albendazole come as chewable tablets).
Adults: Albendazole 400 mg
- Why do some doctors prescribe a repeat dose of Deworming medicine in 2 weeks ?
Some doctors like to repeat the dose of Albendazole after 2 weeks (either with the first-time treatment or every 6 months). This is because deworming medicine is effective in eradicating the worms. But, if the worms had already laid eggs before the person took the medicine, these eggs would hatch in 10-14 days. Eradication of the worms that hatch from the eggs need another round of deworming 2 weeks after the initial dose. This is the rationale behind doctors repeating the dose of deworming medicine in 2 weeks.
- Why do doctors prescribe the Deworming medicine to all the family members though only children have the highest risk ?
Although children are at highest risk from infection and suffer the worst when infected, adults can also carry these worms in their intestines. So, adults in close contact with children (family & household members) can pass on these worms to their children. So, it becomes important to treat adult members in the family not only for the well-being of the adults but also to eliminate a source of re-infection for children in the family.
- What are the advantages of Community or School-based deworming ?
Children may receive deworming medicine at home. But, when they go to school, they may pick up infection from other children who have not been dewormed. This defeats the very purpose of the deworming treatment given at home.That is why, community or school-based deworming is highly recommended by health agencies. When all children in a school-setting are dewormed, it ensures that there is no cross-infection among children and the benefits of school-based deworming are multi-fold when compared to home-based deworming.