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Worms infect more than one-third of the world’s population and the most severe infestations occur in children. They have a profound negative impact on the child’s health, nutrition, and cognitive development. Over 240 million children in India are at risk from parasitic worm infection. How do intestinal worms enter the body?
Dr Amin Kaba, Consultant Pediatrician, Masina Hospital, Mumbai, tells HealthShots, “The most common way for worms to enter the human body is through oral ingestion of eggs through contamination of food and water via unclean hands and contact with infected or dirty soil.”
The most common worm seen in kids is threadworm, also called pinworm. Once swallowed, they enter the small intestine and can lay more eggs around the anus. It can make their bottoms quite itchy. In case children scratch their bottoms and bite their nails, the cycle can repeat itself.
Some of the most common symptoms of worm infestation include itchiness around the bottom, restlessness, visible worms, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Here’s what Dr Kaba advises:
1. Wash hands properly with soap and water, before and after eating.
2. Wash fruits and vegetables properly with clean water before consumption.
3. Boil and cook vegetables properly, before eating.
4. Do not eat raw meat.
5. Wash hands properly after using the bathroom.
6. Keep children’s fingernails short and change underwear daily.
7. Keep cooked food and drinking water covered and protected from insects especially flies.
8. Do not defecate in the open.
9. Treat pets for worm infestation.
10. Regular deworming of school-going children.
11. Avoid walking barefoot on the soil.
Dr Kaba mentions the Indian government’s National Deworming initiative that was started in 2015 for children between one and 19 years of age. Every year, on February 10, children are given deworming tablets free of cost. Ideally, this exercise is recommended twice a year, keeping a gap of 6 months (February and August). The medicines are extremely safe and highly efficacious.
In fact, deworming, especially in school-going children is deemed to be one of the simplest , cost effective, least labor intensive, and high output interventions by the World Health Organization to bring about an improvement in child health, nutrition and cognition.