According to Dr. Chetan Ginigeri, Consultant, Paediatrics & Paediatric Intensive Care, Aster RV Hospital, “An intestinal worm infection (the three main ones are roundworm, hookworm and whipworm) is often not immediately evident and symptoms could include sudden weight loss, stomach pain, loose motions, weakness, fever, vomiting and over a period of time can lead to anemia and malabsorption (where the child’s body does not get sufficient nutrients as nutrients are being absorbed by the worms) which then impacts the growth and development of the child.”
Dr. Pavithra R, Consultant- Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal adds, “Worm infestation is common among children as they affect their growth and development. Similarly, they can affect adults as well. Even though in most cases, worm infestation is not a life-threatening infection it can lead to various clinical problems. Therefore, deworming is important both in kids and adults.”
For the unversed, deworming is the process of administering an anthelmintic drug to a human to get rid of worms in the body.
Open defecation and unhygienic handwashing practices lead to the spread of these parasitic worms into the soil or fruits and vegetables which can then find their way into other people who consume this. “Adult cases of intestinal worms usually arise out of eating street foods or improperly washed vegetables or uncooked meat. Treatment is usually simple, but early identification, particularly in children is important to prevent growth deficiencies and infant mortality. If you stay in an area or plan to visit an area where people are particularly prone to developing intestinal worms, it is good to do deworming at least once a year for both adults and children, and pay extra attention to hygiene,” adds Dr Ginigeri.
If deworming is ignored, these worms have the ability to form cysts in the liver and lungs leading to pneumonia and other neurological conditions.
Although there is an increased amount of awareness worldwide about deworming among children, deworming among adults also requires more attention. Infections due to certain worms may lead to loss of iron from the blood resulting in anaemia. Pregnant women are at high risk due to worm infection as they may develop anaemia during pregnancy leading to multiple problems for the foetus, adds Dr Pavithra.
Some of the most important ways to improve hygiene are washing hands before eating and after using the toilet; using sanitised toilets; keeping the surroundings clean and ensuring nails hygiene.