Kids and worms: the very thought of this makes us want to writhe in horror. However, living in a tropical country, the possibility of kids having intestinal worms is very real. Worms are a type of parasite and the most common worms affecting families with children in Singapore are pinworms or threadworms. The symptoms of intestinal worms in children can vary from one child to another.
How Do Children Contract Worms?
Pinworms can easily be transmitted from one person to another by accidentally putting faecal matter into the mouth.
The cycle starts with female pinworms laying their eggs around the child's anus at night. This then causes children to scratch due to intense itching which transmits the eggs onto their hands and fingernails.
The contamination continues when their little hands come in contact with clothing, bedding, surfaces, toilet seats, toys and even food.
It is extremely easy for the infestation to spread to other children or other members of the family because pinworm eggs can survive up to three weeks, according to WebMD.
As a result, eggs that end up in the mouth and smaller intestines will mature into female worms that lay eggs around the anus all over again. In the end, this life cycle repeats and contaminated children continue re-infecting themselves and others.
Other parasitic worms like hookworms, roundworms and whipworms, can spread via contact with soil contaminated by faeces of pets and even humans. However, this happens more commonly in poorly sanitised places.
You can also be infected if you eat or drink something that contains tapeworm eggs or larvae, like raw or under-cooked beef or pork.
Symptoms of Intestinal Worms in Children
Symptoms of intestinal worms in children can range from nothing to severe itching around the anus at night.
But below are other symptoms children may face aside from an itchy bottom:
- General irritability and behavioural changes
- Trouble sleeping, or restless sleep, sometimes resulting in bed-wetting
- Sudden lack of appetite
- Tummy aches and a change of stools
- In girls, there may be redness and itching around the vagina.
- In more serious cases, children may even show signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
- If your child has other worm infestations, look out for blood in the stools, anaemia as well as wheezing and dry cough.
It is a good practice to check your child’s bottom every once in a while with a torch, two to three hours into their sleep. You might see thin, white, moving, thread-like worms that measure roughly five to 15mm long.
You will be unable to see pinworm eggs with the naked eye.
Your doctor might suggest a "tape test" which involves placing a piece of sticky clear tape on your child's anus. The tape will be able to collect the pinworm eggs if the child is already showing symptoms of intestinal worms in children.
Treatment and Prevention
Medicine to kill the pinworms, as well as medication for inflammation (if any), will be prescribed by your doctor. The whole family and anyone else who has been in close contact with your child will also need to be treated.
Deworming medication will cause those infected to poop out all the dead worms.
Then round two is repeated two weeks later to eliminate any leftover worms, and to ensure that all symptoms of intestinal worms in children are gone. Depending on the situation, your doctor might request another tape test just to be sure.
Do not underestimate the importance of regular hand washing, especially after using the toilet and before meals.
Kids should be discouraged from nail biting. Wash food, fruits and vegetables before eating. Wash contaminated bedding and underwear in a hot wash, especially a few days following the de-worming treatment. Remember also to regularly de-worm your pets.