When I was a child, I remember my mother always worrying and watching to see if we had worms. Now this is something that I haven’t thought about in years. But recently I have noticed a couple of articles about people having tapeworms. Now to most younger Americans, worms are not something that they have ever had to worry about.
In talking to a few people, I find that they know very little about how to prevent or treat worms. You can contact worms from simple things like walking barefoot in areas where people defecated. Then you touch your feet and your mouth.
Now before we go to much further, I want to stress that I am not a Doctor and have no special medical training. This article is for information only. If you have one of these conditions I strongly suggest you get medical help.
One very common type of worm is the pinworm or threadworm which looks like a piece of cotton thread. The can run from about 1/16 to 1/2 inch in length.
How do you get pinworms?
- Children can touch and then swallow the tiny worm eggs without realizing it. The worms hatch in your stomach and then crawl out of a person’s anus at night to lay more eggs.
- The female threadworm lays tiny eggs around the anus and vagina. It also secretes mucus that makes you scratch the area.
- The eggs then are stuck to your fingers or under your fingernails and then you touch your month or spread them to others.
- Pinworms are passed on by poor hygiene, not washing your hands after going to the toilet or coming into contact with objects contaminated by the worm’s eggs. This is where bare feet come into play, children walk in areas where humans have defecated and then touch their feet. They then them put their dirty fingers into their months; then the eggs grow into worms in the intestines.
- The main symptom is an itchy bottom which is worse at night and can disturb sleep.
- The eggs can by transferred from your bottom to underwear, bed sheets towels and carpet.
- Pinworm eggs can survive on surfaces for up to three weeks. It is also possible to breathe in the eggs and then swallow them. The eggs are so small that they can become airborne, for example, if you shake a towel or bed sheet that has eggs on it.
Treatment for pinworms
If one person in a family has them, others may well have them too. So it’s best to treat the whole household to prevent re-infection.
- You get rid of them by following strict hygiene measures for up to six weeks. Wash all your clothes and bedding.
- The most common medications that are used to treat threadworm infections are mebendazole (it also works for hookworms whipworms, roundworms and some other types of worms) and piperazine. Mebendazole is an over the counter medicine and can be purchased at most pharmacies.
- Treatment may not be suitable for everyone and you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Tapeworms are flat-segmented worms that live in the intestines of some animals. Animals can become infected with these worms from grazing in pastures or drinking water that is contaminated.
It is largely spread from animals to humans by eating undercooked meats. Although tapeworms in humans usually cause few symptoms and are easily treated, they can sometimes cause serious, life-threatening problems. You can get tapeworms from beef, pork, fish or poultry.
Tapeworms have a three-stage life cycle:
- an immature stage called a larva
- adult stage at which the worm can produce more eggs.
Because larvae can get into the muscles of their hosts, infection can occur when you eat raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal.
You can also get it from an infected person with poor hygiene. Tapeworm eggs are passed with bowel movements, a person who doesn’t wash hands well after wiping and then prepares food can contaminate the food.
Treatment for tapeworms
The most commonly used medicine for tapeworms is praziquantel (Biltricide) which is a prescription drug. This medication kills the tapeworms. The dead tapeworms then dissolve or pass from your body in your bowel movements. There are also non-prescription medications for treating your animals that are available at a good vet supply.
Prevention from getting tapeworms
- Avoid raw fish and meat.
- Thoroughly cook meat to temperatures of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole cuts of meat and to at least 160 degrees F for ground meat. Then let it rest for at least 3 minutes before carving or eating.
- Freeze meat to -4 degrees F for at least 24 hours to kill tapeworm eggs.
- Wash hands with soap and hot water before preparing or eating foods.
Here is a link to a previous article that I wrote on Worms, Humans and Worm Infections. It contains information on some possible alternative treatments. Remember the best treatment for worms is prevention.