Worms are parasites. They live and feed off their host. They are everywhere and can be contracted with just a bite. They may be present in foods, fruits, vegetables and the soil. There are many types of parasitic worms that live in the human body especially in the intestine.
It is estimated that over 3.5 billion people around the world have this parasitic worms, with the larger number of infected persons in developing countries. Any environment where sanitation is poor, water and food are contaminated is where worm can be easily contracted.
When contracted, some of these worms multiply and when not treated may even cause other health hazards for their host. However, some of the symptoms that one may experience when worms are present in their body are: loss of appetite, fatigue, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, weight loss, stomach upset.
In some cases, a person may start passing segments of the intestinal worm in their stool. It may also lead to severe blockage in the intestine, making it difficult to have bowel movement. Some even make it impossible for their host to absorb protein, loss blood and Iron, which may cause anemia.
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Types of worms and how they can be contracted
- Tapeworm: It is a type of flatworm that lives in the intestine. Some tapeworms live in water and drinking unclean water may allow them into the body. Some also live in meats such as beef, pork and ingesting undercooked or raw form of such meat may lead to contracting such worms.
- Hookworm: This type of worm usually enters the body through unsanitary soil. The hookworm take up space in the small intestine where they lay eggs, which is passed out of the body as faeces. When the eggs hatch, the larvae can potentially enter through the skin of another person. People are at risk if they come in contact with the fecal matter or soil that are contaminated.
- Threadworm: This type of worm also live in the intestine. They are common in children below the age of 10. They are white, about 8mm long with a blunt head and a pointed tail. They live up to six months.
- Whipworm: Also known as Trichocephalus trichiuris, is a form of roundworm that causes trichuriasis, when it affects the human large intestine.
- Flukes: This is a type of flatworm. Humans get this worm by accidentally eating or ingesting them, either in drinking water or fresh water plants. Once inside the body, the adult flukes occupy the bile ducts and liver. People with this type of worm may experience inflammation of the bile ducts or complete blockage, also and abnormally large liver.
- Pinworm: is a small thin roundworm that is about the size of a staple. They are relatively harmless and sometimes live in the colon or rectum of the human. Some who have this worm can pass it on to others through direct contact or by sharing contaminated object with them. Pinworm commonly cause itching around the anus, which may be severe enough to make sleeping difficult. In the night the female pinworms come out to the anus to lay their eggs in the surrounding skin.
- Ascariasis: It enters the body when people ingest it. When it gets into the body, it lives in the intestine. It may lead to intestinal blockage or impaired growth in children.
- Trichinella: This is a type of roundworm that may pass to humans when they eat undercooked or raw meat that contains the larvae. This worm lives in the intestine and when it attains full maturity, may move to other parts of the body such as the muscles. Symptoms may include swollen eyes and face, chills, muscle and joint pains. In a more serious case, there may be difficulty in breathing, wart problem or even death.
A fecal test, blood test, colonoscopy, imaging tests and tape tests are some of the ways to ascertain the presence of these parasites in the human body.
It is advised that when you notice any of the symptoms mentioned, you see a doctor. While many have recommended that people should deworm themselves once every three months, it is important to see a doctor in this regard. Your doctor can ascertain the anti-parasitic medication that is suitable for you.
Pregnant women and persons with specific health challenges must stay off regular antiparasitic medications not prescribed by a medical practitioner.
How to prevent contracting worms
- Basic sanitation is key.
- Hand washing culture at all times helps. Wash hands with soap after using the toilet, before cooking or touching foods.
- Cook meat and poultry products well, not half cooked.
- Use a separate cutting board for meat and vegetables.
- Use clean water to wash. Also your source of drinking water must be pure and clean.
- If possible avoid patronising roadside food vendors. This is because you never can tell their source of water and where the food was cooked.
- Maintain good hygiene.