Saturday 5 October 2013

Beware – worms could be feasting in your child’s tummy!

Beware – worms could be feasting in your child's tummy!

by Dr Zinal Unadkat

Rashi's baby boy had just turned eight months old, and despite all the joys of motherhood, Rashi was grappling with the sudden change in her baby's countenance. Once a happy and energetic child, Aakash was now irritable and refused to eat. Worried, Rashi visited her baby's paediatrician, who told her that her child had intestinal worms.

Wondering what intestinal worms are? We spoke to Dr Zinal Unadkat, leading paediatrician, to get you some answers.

What are intestinal worms?

Intestinal worms are of different types namely ring worms, whip worms, round worms and  are parasitic in nature. That means that they prey on the nutrition of their host – in this case the child – who eventually suffers from symptoms like malnutrition, stomach ache, vomiting, weakness and not gaining weight as per their age.

In order to kill these parasites, peadiatricians recommend a child gets  dewormed regularly – a process where a child is given medication to kill intestinal worms. 

When should children be dewormed?

Ideally a child should get dewormed six months after birth, since this is when they tend to touch various things and put their hands in their mouth. If what they touch is contaminated, it can cause the worms or their eggs to enter the baby's body and grow inside his/her stomach. It is important for parents to remember that the deworming dose should be repeated 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. 

What are the symptoms of intestinal worms?

The most common symptom is itching of the anus region of the child, decrease in the child's appetite and increase in his/her sugar intake and grinding of his/her teeth (while this is not directly due to the worms themselves, it is a sign that something is wrong). Some children may even have worms coming out of their anus while they are passing motion and in some cases they may even have excessive hunger. Excessive hunger is usually a sign that the body is craving nutrition, which is a usually due to a parasitic infection.

What kind of medication is prescribed for deworming?

A doctor will prescribe medication containing albendazole or mebendazole in a syrup form to your child. This is usually a one time prescription.

What precautions can parents take to avoid intestinal worms in their children?

There are simple things that a parent can do, like;

Maintaining proper hygiene in the house.
Keeping an eye on what the child is touching or putting in his/her mouth.
Making sure that they wash the child's hands with soap and water as often as possible (at least ten times) in a day.
Ensuring that the child always wears shoes when he/she is outside the house, especially in muddy areas.
And most importantly they should ensure that if they have house help who handle the child, he/she should maintain hygienic living standards in order to avoid passing on the infection to the child.
 Lastly, a parent is the best judge of their child's health, so keep an eye on your child, make sure their surroundings are as sanitary as possible and your baby should be well on his/her way to good health. (Read:10 expert tips to make the house safe for your baby)

For more articles on diseases and conditions, check out our diseases & conditions section and for videos, check out our YouTube Channel. 

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