- Intestinal Helminthiasis is a parasitic infection that occurs from worms growing inside the gastrointestinal tract of the body.
- It is mainly transmitted from eggs that are present in human feces, which contaminate soil and water in places with poor sanitary conditions.
- It mostly occurs in young children, when they play outside and touch and ingest contaminated soil.
- The main symptoms of Soil transmitted Helminthiasis include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, cough and in some cases, visible worms in the stools.
- Antiparasitic drugs help in treating parasitic worm infections
- Following safe hygienic practices helps keep soil-transmitted helminthiasis and parasitic worm infections at bay
Chapter 1: What is Helminthiasis?
Helminthiasis, commonly known as worm infection, is a macro parasitic disease in which a part of the body is infected with parasitic worms or helminths. There are several species of parasites, and they often reside in the digestive tract of the host body. Sometimes they also move into other organs, where they cause physiological damage.
The worms are transmitted by eggs that are present in human feces. Due to poor sanitary conditions and waste management in certain regions, human waste might end up contaminating soil and water. When a person comes into contact with contaminated soil or water, they might ingest or come in contact with the eggs and become infected.
Helminthiasis does not spread through direct person-to-person transmission or transmission from fresh feces, as the parasitic worms need about three weeks before they develop infective properties. Therefore, it’s important to constantly keep your surroundings clean and hygienic.
Helminthiasis includes infection from roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Children are more susceptible to this ailment.
Helminthiasis often occurs in tropical and subtropical countries and is most prevalent in places with poor sanitary conditions. According to the WHO, more than 1.5 billion people, that is 24% of the global population, are infected with helminths every year.
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Chapter 2: What are the common Helminthiasis causes?
Here’s an overview of the causes of worm infection:
- Consumption of contaminated water and soil
- Contact with contaminated feces
- Poor sanitation and hygiene
Soil-transmitted helminth infections, such as roundworms and hookworms, are the most common types of helminth infections in children. Infected people excrete helminth eggs in their feces, which then can potentially contaminate the soil in areas with inadequate sanitation. Other people can then be infected by ingesting eggs or larvae in contaminated food, or through penetration of the skin by infective larvae in the soil.
The reason why soil-transmitted helminthiasis is so prevalent among children is that children often play outside and unintentionally put their hands in unclean soil. These soil particles get stuck in their nails and when the child bites the nails, the worm eggs enter the intestine and grow inside the gastrointestinal tract. Since these worms are parasitic, they use the host’s resources to grow and reproduce inside the body. Most people may not even feel their presence, but when the worms grow too big or start entering other organs, symptoms of a worm infection manifest.
Chapter 3: What are the symptoms of Helminthiasis?
Helminthiasis symptoms are not observable generally in case of mild infections. Long-term infections can be detected with symptoms like:
Apart from these symptoms, doctors might also identify other signs of helminthiasis such as rectal prolapse. In cases where worms in the stool are not visible to the naked eye, stool samples and tests can confirm the presence of eggs.
Since the three main types of worms that cause intestinal Helminthiasis are roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, let’s look at each of their symptoms in detail as well.
Human Roundworm infection or Ascariasis mainly affects the small intestine and is extremely common among children who live in unsanitary environments. Here are the main symptoms:
If you or your child is experiencing more severe symptoms such as unbearable abdominal pain, fatigue, and fever, it indicates that the condition is very severe and you should consult a pediatrician or general physician immediately.
Hookworms are helminths that affect your small intestine, lungs, and skin. According to the CDC, around 576-740 million people globally have hookworm infections. Again, it is most common among children. Here are common Helminthiasis symptoms caused by Hookworms:
If your child is suffering from skin rashes and abdominal pain, it may be because of a worm infection. A doctor might further examine the patient to detect the presence of intestinal cramps. Always consult with a pediatrician or general physician to confirm the diagnosis of worm infestation.
Unlike roundworm and hookworm infections, the whipworm affects the large intestine. Around 600-800 million people in the world have whipworm infection. It is a very common helminth found in unsanitary tropical conditions. Here are the main symptoms of a whipworm intestinal helminthiasis infection:
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Chapter 4: How is Helminthiasis diagnosed and treated?
To diagnose Helminthiasis, your doctor will first study your symptoms and recommend tests accordingly.
The most common diagnostic tests for Helminthiasis include:
1. Stool test
Mature worms, whether it be roundworm, hookworm, or whipworm, reproduce in the intestines and lay eggs. These eggs travel through the digestive tract and come out in your stools. A stool test identifies the presence of these tiny eggs and larvae under the microscope. It may take more than one stool sample to confirm the diagnosis of worm infestation.
2. Blood test
Blood tests can help identify certain types of parasites in the intestine.
3. Tape test
Tape test, as the name suggests, involves placing a sterilized tape around the anal opening. The eggs or larvae stick to the tape and they can be identified under a microscope.
During a colonoscopy, a long thin tube with a camera is inserted into the large intestine through the rectum to give a clear view of the insides of the digestive tract. A colonoscopy is sometimes done in case your doctor is unable to confirm the presence of helminthiasis through other means such as stool exams and blood tests.
5. Imaging tests
Tests such as MRI, CT scan, X-Ray, can be used to detect the extent of organ damage caused by Helminths.
These are the most common methods of diagnosing Helminthiasis.
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The most effective treatment for Helminthiasis is anti-parasitic drugs and deworming tablets. These drugs kill the parasites in the intestine and eliminate them from your body. The type of medication, duration, and dosage will vary depending on the worm causing the infection.
Your doctor will recommend the correct dosage and duration after identifying the cause and severity of the infection. In very severe cases, you may require surgery or different kinds of medication. However, these are rare instances.
You should ask your doctor for any nutritional guidelines, supplements, and lifestyle changes to combat and prevent future infections.
Chapter 4: How can Helminthiasis be prevented?
Helminthiasis occurs in regions with poor sanitation and hygiene. Therefore, practicing simple hygiene practices and keeping the environment clean will make a huge difference in keeping away parasitic worm infections.
Here are some soil-transmitted Helminthiasis prevention tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid eating raw, uncooked vegetables. Always wash vegetables thoroughly even before cooking.
- Avoid eating raw and unprocessed meat. Make sure you purchase meat from reliable sources that guarantee cleanliness follow a strict safety protocol.
- Disinfect utensils and surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat.
- Avoid walking barefoot on the soil, especially in unhygienic places.
- Get rid of feces and other animal waste in your surroundings
- Wash your hands thoroughly before eating, after touching raw meat, changing diapers, and coming into contact with animals.
- While traveling, drink only bottled water, eat at clean restaurants, and carry hand sanitizer wherever you go.
- Make sure your children avoid touching dirty soil and surfaces as much as possible. Keep washing their hands and legs regularly.
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What are the symptoms of Helminthiasis?
Main long term symptoms and signs of Helminthiasis are:
What causes Helminthiasis?
Main Helminthiasis causes include:
- Consumption of contaminated water and soil
- Contact with contaminated feces
- Poor sanitation and hygiene
- Eating uncooked, raw vegetables
- Eating uncooked, unwashed meat
- Walking on contaminated soil
- Not washing hands after touching an animal
Which is the most common helminth infection?
Soil-transmitted helminth infections are the most common types of helminth infections in children and are transmitted through contact with contaminated soil and fecal matter. The main parasites present are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and even tapeworms.
How do you treat Helminthiasis?
The most effective treatment for Helminthiasis is anti-parasitic drugs. These drugs kill the parasites in the intestine and help evacuate them out of your body. The type of medication, duration, and dosage will vary depending on the worm causing the infection.
How do you test for Helminthiasis?
To get diagnosed for any parasitic infection, you may have to undergo any of the following tests such as a stool test to look for larvae/eggs, a blood test to test for antibodies, imaging tests including X-Ray, MRI and CT scan, a tape test or even a colonoscopy.
Do parasites go away on their own?
In many cases, the parasites in your gut do disappear on their own, but some multiply and stay inside the body, leading to parasitic infections. If you’re experiencing symptoms of worm infections, then you should get it looked at by a doctor.
How can I prevent parasitic infections?
Helminthiasis occurs in regions with poor sanitation and hygiene. Therefore, practicing simple hygiene practices such as washing your hands regularly, avoiding uncooked vegetables and meat, drinking clean water, and staying away from contaminated soil will prevent worm infections.
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