The other day I was talking to some young mothers who had never heard of people in this country worm infestations. They found it hard to believe that they were common only 50 or 60 years ago. When I was a child, I remember my mother always worrying and watching to see if we had worm infestations.
In talking to a few people, I find that they know very little about how to prevent or treat them. 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.
- When you scratch your anus the eggs stick 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 where bare feet come into play, children walk in areas where humans have defecated and then touch their feet. They 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 and roundworms)and piperazine. Mebendazole was an over the counter drug until about 4 years ago, now you need a prescription. You can still get it from overseas pharmacies.
- Treatments 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 parasites 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 lifecycle:
- 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 medications kill the tapeworms. The dead tapeworms then dissolve or pass from your body in your bowel movements. There are also non-prescription medications from 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 are some alternate treatments for worm infestations that I have heard off but not tried. Herbs have been used for the treatment of worm infestations for thousands of years. Many of the herbs used to treat intestinal parasites have toxic side effects or interfere with other medications. Use them only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Your healthcare provider should treat you with the gentlest herb that is effective for the type of parasite you have. A few of the herbs that your health care provider might consider include:
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
- Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium)
- Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
- Wormwood (Artemisia annua)
- Curled mint (Mentha crispa)
- Black walnuts (Juglans nigra
In the past other treatments for worm infestations included being feed a small quantity of chewing tobacco for several days. Another cure was feeding the patient a mixture of turpentine and sugar. I can’t recommend that you try either of these methods. Pumpkin seeds and garlic were also used as a remedy. I can’t remember what my mother used to treat us and unfortunately, she is not around to ask. Remember the best treatment is prevention.