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National Deworming Day: All You Need To Know

By Nishkak +2 more

Introduction

Intestinal worms are a serious health hazard. Even though nearly 836 million children globally (241 million in India alone in the 1-14 age bracket) are at the risk of contracting infections through worms, this problem is mostly overlooked by parents due to inadequate knowledge of the dangers associated with intestinal worms. Let us find out more.


What are intestinal worms?

Intestinal Worms or Helminths are usually transmitted from the soil and are also called Soil-Transmitted Helminths or STH. Some common types of intestinal parasites are- roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, pinworms and whipworms. All of these are parasitic worms that thrive in the human intestine. 

All children irrespective of whether they have worms in stool or not , should be given deworming medicine every 6 months and it is given free of cost at government centres.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

How does an intestinal worm infection happen?

STHs live in the human intestine and sustain themselves on the nutrition ingested by humans. These intestinal worms lay thousands of eggs every day, which then pass into the faeces of the infected human.

If an infected person defecates out in the open, the faecal matter containing the STH eggs mixes with the soil. 

Vegetables and fruits grown in this soil will also contain parasite eggs and when people consume vegetables and fruits that have not been washed properly or cooked thoroughly, then they may contract an STH infection. 

According to CDC, parasitic intestinal worms may also enter the body if the person has handled contaminated soil and didn’t wash their hands properly before eating or if a person drinks water contaminated by an infected person’s faeces.

For these reasons, STH infections are especially common in regions of poor sanitation and hygiene, especially in tropical climates but can also be seen in children and adults living in metros. 

Abdominal pain, vomiting, lack of appetite, anemia, itching around the anus are common telltale signs that deworming is needed in the individual, it is as equally important in adults as in children.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Symptoms of Intestinal Worms

Worm infestation is a very common problem and you must be aware of its symptoms. Children (and adults) infected with intestinal worms show some or most of these symptoms-

  • Itching around the anal opening
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Fever
  • Stunted growth (children)
  • Worms in stool 

Are intestinal worm infections dangerous?

Yes. In the long run, untreated intestinal worm infections can take a toll on a person’s health.

Worms can trigger-

  • Malnutrition and anaemia (because the worms absorb the nutrition meant for the human)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Psychological and physical growth impairment of children

Are intestinal worm infections curable?

Yes, infections caused by intestinal worms can easily be cured by antiparasitic medicines. These medicines are prescribed by doctors after a diagnosis of an intestinal worm infection.

How are these medicines administered?

Antiparasitic medicines for deworming are pills or tablets that are administered orally as a part of preventive measures or a cure for worm infestation. The medicine and dosage can vary depending upon the child’s age.

What are the side effects of antiparasitic medicines?

Antiparasitic medicines usually do not trigger any serious side effects. However, very few individuals may experience mild –

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness

However, some people can have allergic reactions to the medication.

What should you discuss with your doctor?

Some deworming medicines may interact with medication for other disorders. Let your doctor know if you or your child is under medication for-

  • Kidney disorder 
  • Neurological disorders
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Myelosuppression (a decrease in the activity of the bone marrow)

Similarly, people planning to conceive or pregnant, breastfeeding women should also inform their doctors before taking deworming medicines.

Can parasitic worm infections be prevented?

Yes, infection by intestinal worms is preventable. A few things to keep in mind-

  • Use indoor sanitary toilets.
  • Wear shoes or slippers when you go outside.
  • Wash and clean fruits and vegetables. Cook them thoroughly.
  • Avoid consuming uncooked food from outside the home.
  • Wash cooking and serving utensils and crockery properly.
  • Wash hands properly with soap and water before cooking or eating.
  • Boil water that is meant for consumption and cooking.
  • Nails should be well-trimmed and maintained clean.
  • Wash your hands properly after handling soil.

What is National Deworming Day?

Recognising the urgent need to deworm children so that their health and school participation are not adversely affected due to worm infections, the Government of India issues deworming guidelines to all the states and Union Territories of the country. 

Every year, 10th February is observed as the National Deworming Day to spread awareness regarding the health threat of worms and for the promotion of deworming as many children as possible in the 1-19 age group (pre-school and school). 

To make this deworming mission successful, antiparasitic medicines are given to children from government schools. The deworming is done twice a year in states where infection rates are above 20% and once a year in other states (only Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as of now)

National Deworming Day or NDD was first implemented in 2015 and 8.9 crore children were given deworming medicines that year, achieving 85% coverage. In subsequent years, the coverage percentage has steadily increased.

Do adults need deworming?

Yes, parasitic worms can affect adults as well. Oral anti-parasitic medicines are prescribed by doctors for deworming adults. Usually, the results of the treatment manifest within a week.

Pet deworming:

In this context, it is important to remember that parasitic worms may affect your beloved pets as well. Dogs and cats are very prone to intestinal worms transmitted by fleas. Since their paws come in contact with soil all the time, there are high chances that worm eggs will enter their bodies. Cats and dogs also get intestinal worms if they eat infected meat containing worm eggs. 

Untreated worms in your pets’ intestines can trigger-

  • Anaemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Loss of strength and energy
  • Heart failure (in extreme cases)

There are several over the counter deworming options for pets. You can also ask your veterinarian to recommend a few medicines. Check out for these symptoms to know if your pet has worms-

  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Lustre-less coat. 

Pet deworming is not just vital for your pet’s health, but also your own. Infected dog/cat droppings increase the chances of you and your family accidentally consuming infected food. The worms will then end up in human intestines. 

Conclusion

Intestinal worms can have serious implications on a person’s health. But the good news is that treatment through oral medication is simple and fully effective. Maintain personal hygiene and avoid open defecation. If you have children keep an eye out for symptoms and talk to your doctor for the best advice. 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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