Don't let parasites suck your nutrition

  • By Seema Verma

We all know worms as those tiny slimy creatures that we sometimes see crawling around during the rainy season. Now imagine these parasites crawling in your intestine! Well, intestinal worms are actually a major concern and are quite common especially in school-going children. These parasites typically live in and feed off the food in our intestines and overtime start to breed there.

In India alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that almost 241 million children under the age of 15 years (roughly 68%) are at risk for parasitic infection.

How can I get infected by worms?

A child or adult can be infected by worms in the following ways:

  1. Consuming food or beverage infected by worms such as undercooked meat and un-boiled milk.
  2. Farmers or gardeners working closely with soil can be infected by these parasites also known as soil-transmitted helminths (STH).
  3. Poor hygiene conditions such as contact with faeces of an infected person, walking bare feet in an infested area.

Symptoms of worm infection

Worm infections are tough to diagnose as there are hardly any noticeable symptoms, but one can look out for the following:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Skin rashes or itchiness
  3. Vomiting
  4. Stomach pain and/or a distended abdomen.
  5. Diarrhoea
  6. Flatulence
  7. Fatigue
  8. Fever

Apart from the above listed symptoms, intestinal worms can have severe negative effects on your internal health as well. As they feed of the food in our digestive tract, they absorb the nutrition and can overtime lead to malnourishment, especially in children. Further, these parasites can also cause anaemia, due to reduced iron absorption, and low energy levels resulting in school absenteeism. In children, worm infection can also stunt physical and cognitive growth as well as damage in the stomach lining.

Precautions to avoid worm infection

Practice good hygiene: Wash hands (and feet if exposed) every time you come home, after using the washroom and especially before every meal.

Eat with care: Always wash fruits and vegetables well and boil milk before drinking. Wherever possible remove the external peel of the fruit or vegetable before consumption.

Take care if infected: If you are suffering from worm infection, be careful so as not to spread the infection to others. Wash clothes separately and use a separate toilet during treatment.

Clean sanitation areas: Make sure to regularly clean your toilets with disinfectants and keep used, unwashed clothes in a separate hamper.

Government Initiative to Treat and curb Worm infection

On February 10, 2015, the Indian Government launched the National Deworming Day in an attempt to treat several children suffering from Parasite infection and curb this disease. This initiative aims to treat 140 million children initially and eventually extend to at least 75% of the infected population. In order to treat worm infections, schools across major cities were provided with Albendazole tablets for all children in the school, with a recommended dosage based on their age.

Intestinal worms can be contracted by anyone and sometimes go a long time before being diagnosed. The best way to eradicate this disease is by opting for regular de-worming treatment in consultation with your doctor, and practicing clean hygiene standards.