Should I de­worm my child?

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents - DR SIMON STRA­CHAN Pae­di­a­tri­cian

Q:We re­cently got a kit­ten for our three-year old daugh­ter. Should we de­worm the whole fam­ily?

A:Worms are fairly spe­cific to their host species, mean­ing that it is very un­likely for a cat to trans­fer worms to a hu­man and vice versa. It is pos­si­ble to con­tract round­worms from a cat if you are dig­ging around in soil that a cat uses for defe­cat­ing, but only in this sit­u­a­tion. The re­sult­ing worm in­fes­ta­tion is not in the in­testines but in the skin and other or­gans.

Worms oc­cur­ring in chil­dren are con­tracted from the fae­ces of other chil­dren and thus worm in­fec­tions oc­cur most com­monly in ar­eas with poor hy­giene and san­i­ta­tion.

These worms are called round­worms and in­clude: as­caris, pin­worms, hook­worms, strongy­loides and whip­worms. They are mostly ac­quired by swal­low­ing an in­fec­tive egg from soil that was in­fected or else by mi­grat­ing through the skin as lar­vae when dig­ging or stand­ing in in­fected soil. Re­mem­ber that this is soil in­fected with worms found in hu­man fae­ces.

Symp­toms caused by worms are di­rectly re­lated to the in­ten­sity of the in­fec­tion. Light in­fec­tions cause no symp­toms at all but heavy in­fec­tions can cause se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions to the in­testines and lungs.

The most com­mon pre­sen­ta­tion of worms is an itchy anus due to pin­worms. Com­pli­ca­tions from worms can be iron de­fi­ciency or other nu­tri­tional de­fi­cien­cies in­clud­ing poor ab­sorp­tion, growth de­lay and bowel ob­struc­tion.

Worms are di­ag­nosed by see­ing live worms in stool or by send­ing stool to a lab­o­ra­tory where eggs and lar­vae can be spot­ted un­der a mi­cro­scope.

The prac­tice of de­worm­ing fam­ily mem­bers is re­ally not nec­es­sary in fam­i­lies liv­ing in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments. In a school sit­u­a­tion where many chil­dren use one sand­pit, it may be nec­es­sary to de­worm your child ev­ery year to pre­vent or treat worm in­fes­ta­tion. In the home sit­u­a­tion you need only de­worm your pets.

Worms must be treated with med­i­ca­tion, ei­ther meben­da­zole (Ver­mox) or al­ben­da­zole (Zen­tel). A sin­gle dose is usu­ally suf­fi­cient, but for whip­worm and for strongy­loides three or more doses may be nec­es­sary. So it’s im­por­tant to know which worm you’re deal­ing with be­fore start­ing med­i­ca­tion.

Please de­worm your cat, don’t dig in the area where the cat is poop­ing, use gloves when gar­den­ing and don’t worry about your three-year-old un­less she is ex­posed to sand­pits and there’s a pos­si­bil­ity of com­ing into con­tact with other chil­dren’s fae­ces. YB

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