Rati’s 2-year old son, Himaan was an enthusiastic and lively child ever since he was born. But over the last couple of days, Rati has been grappling with the sudden change in her child’s behaviour. Himaan has now become irritable and refuses to eat. Unable to come to terms with the drastic change, an anxious Rati rushes to a paediatrician, who confirms it’s a case of intestinal worms. Himaan is not the first, there are numerous children across the globe who suffer from worm infestations. In short, it is a common phenomenon and while it is not anything to be perturbed about, turning a blind eye is not a good idea either.
Watch out for indications
The intestinal worms, most commonly, threadworms, round worms, giardia amoeba and whip worms are parasitic in nature, and prey on the child’s nutrition.
The most-common symptoms of worm infestation in children are:
- Regular stomach pain for no specific reason
- Loss in appetite with poor digestion
- Loss in average body weight per age
- Weakness, nausea and anaemia
- Itching around the anal region
- Blockage of the intestinal tract and constipation
- Abdominal distension
- Frequent vomiting
You may also be worried at your child’s sudden increase in sugar intake and teeth grinding. While it might not be the worms playing the direct culprit, it certainly is a subtle indication. Some children may have worms coming out of them while excreting. But, there are also a number of cases where the child experiences excessive hunger. This could be due to a parasitic infection.
Start deworming process early
Fortunately, worm infestation in kids is a mild disease and can be treated quickly with the help of modern drugs containing Albendazole or Mebendazole. The best thing though, is to not allow worms to manifest in the first place. It is ideal to take necessary precautions and get your child dewormed every six months.
Deworming process should be started at a tender age of 8 months as this is the time when the infants are curious to touch various things, and also show a tendency to put everything in their mouth. If your child comes in contact with anything contaminated, it can cause the worms or their eggs to enter his body and grow inside the stomach. Infection can also be transmitted from unhygienic handling of baby’s food.
As parents, it is your responsibility to ensure and repeat the deworming dose. This should be done once every six months, even if the child does not show symptoms of intestinal worms, since the deworming medication kills only adult worms and not their eggs. Drugs help in providing only a temporary relief from worm infestations in kids. However, it is very important to treat the child and all family members, including servants, at the same time. This will help in preventing chances of re-infection because any member of the family can be a carrier and a steady source of infection.
Handy preventive measures
Here are simple precautionary measures to help keep your children away from worm infestation:
- Maintain proper hygiene in the house as a top priority
- Keep an eye on what the child is touching or putting in his mouth
- Ensure your child religiously follows the habit of hand-wash
- All fruits and vegetables eaten raw should be washed properly before consumption because the soil on it may be contaminated with the ova of the round worm
- Ensure the drinking water consumed by the family is filtered and boiled
- Extra care should be taken while preparing food due to risks of contamination through unhygienic handling
- Ensure your child has been cleaned properly after every bowel movement
- Ensure your child avoids playing barefoot outdoors, as the soil may be contaminated. The muddy ground might contain ova of the hookworm, and these worms enter through the foot to the blood stream and grow into adult worms
Like we always say, prevention is better than cure. Once this is taken care of, be rest assured that your little bundle of joy is well on her way to good health and happiness.
Dr. D.K. Guha is a Senior Consultant, Paediatrics, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, Delhi.