In human intestines, tapeworms have been known to grow as long as 15 metres without treatment. South African households must take regular precautions against this form of parasitic intestinal worm infection.
“Whether or not we like to think about it, intestinal worms are more common than most people realise. These parasites are in the environment all around us looking for hosts, and can easily infect entire households,” says pharmacist Joy Steenkamp of Medipost Pharmacy courier pharmacy.
Pinworm eggs are so little that they can be inhaled, while hookworms in the soil can enter the body through barefoot walking and tapeworms are sometimes unknowingly consumed in undercooked meat or seafood, claims Steenkamp. Additionally, families with kids and pets are more likely to contract intestinal parasitic worms.
Although there are often no symptoms, especially in the early stages of infestation, a course of deworming medication is recommended for all members of the household and pets regularly.
The Transaction of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, claims that even though worms have historically infected more than half of the world’s population, they were largely ignored by medical science and public health interventions because they were thought to be non-fatal and of minimal clinical significance.
“It is recommended that we take the precaution of deworming twice a year. Since intestinal worms spread so quickly, everyone in the home, including the pets, should take a course of deworming medication at the same time to prevent reinfection.”
Types of intestinal worms
Hookworms: are also known as soil-transmitted helminths. The flesh on your feet is susceptible to invasion by these parasitic worms, which can result in unpleasant diarrhoea and, in more severe cases, protein and iron deficiencies as well as anaemia.
Whipworm and roundworms: Even though the contaminated soil is not visible to the naked eye, it can nevertheless cause whipworm and roundworm infestations. Major whipworm infections can result in anaemia if left untreated, and serious roundworm infections can cause fever, coughing, and even severe eye difficulties.
Pinworms: affect only humans and are contracted by inhaling or touching contaminated food or objects, including bedding or clothing. Symptoms include itching of the anus that can result in difficulty sleeping and restlessness.
Tapeworms: are members of the flatworm family and can enter the human body by eating infected undercooked fish, beef, or pork, or through the faecal-oral route.
Steenkamp suggests the following to avoid infection:
Some helpful hygiene measures include: cleaning up pet faeces in bags,
Careful not to touch it,
Cover up children’s sand pits when they are not in use.
Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom, handling animals, and consuming meals.
She adds that it’s simple to forget how crucial it is to thoroughly wash vegetables and cook food thoroughly. Additionally, killing the organisms and halting the spread of intestinal worms in the home can be achieved by frequently washing household items, particularly bedding, in hot water.
“Thankfully, there are treatment options available without a prescription. It is important to pay attention to the package insert warnings, as this medication is not for pregnant women or children under one year old,” said Steenkamp offering some advice on how we can treat ourselves at home.
The most common form of intestinal worm infection can be treated with a single dose or twice daily three-day course of mebendazole, which can be purchased from pharmacies under different brand names and comes in a tablet or suspension form. If needed, the tablets can be crushed and swallowed with liquid.
Side effects are rare when treating intestinal worms temporarily. Very little of the medication is absorbed outside of the gastrointestinal tract since it first kills parasitic worms in the intestines where they are most likely to be found before being removed by the body. “However, occasionally people may feel queasy, particularly with severe infections,” Steenkamp warns.
People with sensitivities and allergies to common inactive ingredients should double-check with their pharmacist and the medication label for ingredients, such as sucrose or sweeteners among others, and discuss any potential cause for concern with their doctor.
“Anyone can be affected by intestinal parasites, don’t wait for the signs of infection. Look after your family with regular preventative deworming as part of your annual health and hygiene routine.”