Worms in children: Causes, symptoms and treatments
If you see your child scratching his bum more than usual, he might have worms. Read on to find out all you need to know about worms in children.
If you have a child who’s skinny, you’ve probably heard someone from the older generation saying this at some point, “You eat so much yet you’re so thin, you must have worms in your stomach!”. While worms in children don’t necessarily ‘steal’ their food and make them skinny, it is extremely common for children between the age of five to ten years to have worms.
Here’s the good news – worms in children are extremely common and the condition is easy to treat so fret not.
What are worms in children?
Worms are pretty much a type of parasite. There are several types of worms in children including threadworm, roundworm, tapeworm, whipworm and hookworm. Fortunately, most of these worms are rarely a cause for concern here. They usually infect children in highly populated regions with poor hygiene and sanitation facilities.
Threadworms, also known as pinworms, are most commonly found in children here. These are tiny white worms with a blunt head and a pointed tail. They can live in the human body for up to six weeks.
Causes of worms in children
It’s really easy for children to get worms. Contrary to popular belief, worms in children don’t necessarily have to do with lack of hygiene.
Children get them when they get worm eggs on their hands and swallow these eggs. And if you’re wondering where they get these eggs from, it’s of course from coming into contact with another person infected with worms. This means they catch it directly.
Children can also catch worms indirectly by touching toys, bed linen, furniture, door knobs or pretty much anything that was previously touched by a worm-infected person.
So yes, it’s really easy for children to get worms and there’s not much you can do to prevent it from happening. Just so you know, it is a human-specific parasite so no, your children don’t get worms from their fur babies.
Symptoms of worms in children
These are the most common symptoms:
- Itchy bottom (so if you find them scratching their bum excessively, it may not be a bad habit they developed)
- General irritibality
- Restless sleep
- Sudden lack or increase in appetite
Some of the less common symptoms include:
- Itchiness around the vagina: In some rare cases, the female threadworm migrates from the anus to the vagina and this can cause your little girl to experience vulvovaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) which is extremely uncomfortable. Symptoms include irritation and vaginal discharge.
- Abdominal pain, nausea and vomitting
While you can’t see the worms in your child’s faeces, look for moving worms around your child’s anus. After he has gone to sleep, part his buttocks and use a torchlight to look at the opening of the anus. The worms resemble fine pieces of cotton thread up to 1.5cm long.
You can also expect to find the eggs. Worm eggs resemble tiny white specs.
Testing for worms in children
The sticky tape test is most common. You can put a sticky tape over your child’s anus and then remove it. If there are eggs, they will appear as white specs when held up to light.
Doctors do this as well, just that they will place the sticky tape on a glass slide and look at it under a microscope.
It’s best to do this test early in the morning before your child bathes, poops or wipes his bottom.
Treating worms in children
Again, worms in children are not something to be too worried about and it’s easy to treat them.
Your doctor is most likely to prescribe you antiparasitic tablets, which are easily available over the counter. The tablets get their work done after a dose or two.
No medicine is prescribed for babies under three months.
If your child has threadworms, it’s best that you get everyone in the family treated. This will prevent them from spreading.
If your child has worms, do exercise social responsibility and keep him at home to stop worms from spreading to other children. The eggs spread easily and it’s not uncommon for worm infections to return.
You can’t entirely prevent it for you never know who has worms and you can’t possibly lock your child at home and wrap him in a bubble. But to minimise the possible spread of worms, here are some simple things you can do:
- Remind your child to wash his hands thoroughly and frequently, especially before eating
- Cut your child’s fingernails regularly
- Discourage your child from scratching around his bottom or sucking his fingers
- Clean toilet seats and potties regularly
If someone in the family has worms, regularly wash their clothes and bed linen in hot, soapy water for several days after the treatment.
As mentioned, threadworms are rarely harmful. The worst thing is the itch and discomfort around the anus and the scratching can leave the anus sore.
Large numbers of threadworms may cause mild tummy pains. Threadworms don’t usually lead to loss of weight.
The Hookworm can cause anaemia (iron deficiency) and the roundworm can cause wheezing and a dry cough. But don’t worry too much for it’s highly unlikely you get these here.
There you go mums and dads, a comprehensive guide to worms in children. So remember, if they do get worms, it’s not too big of a deal. Keep calm and get them sorted out. They will be fine in no time!
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore