Should I deworm my child?
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