Worms are parasitic organisms that are found in the intestines where they live and feed off the diet of the host.
Worm infection, also known as Helminth infection, is as a result of the activities of the worm in the intestines. Worm infection in babies is very common but are easily overlooked.
Children in the third world countries in continents such as Asia, Africa, and South America experience worm infections in babies. Worm infections in babies may cause a range of symptoms, and if left untreated, can have severe effects on the growth and development of babies.
Treatment of worm infections in babies is easy. Certain anti-parasitic medicines can be prescribed to fight and kill those intestinal worms. Besides, there are some home remedies available for the treatment of worm infections in babies if you want to go the natural way.
Types of worms that cause infections
There are many worm infections caused by various types of worms. Babies are commonly affected by worms such as;
Tapeworms are also known as flatworms. They possess hooks and suckers that allow them to get attached to the walls of the intestines to feed off from partially digested food.
They cause a range of symptoms which could be mild, moderate or severe. They usually get into the intestines through the mouth when eaten through contaminated food.
The causative agent of roundworm infection is Ascaris lumbricoides which are worms that generally live in saltwater, fresh-water and soil. Still, they usually get into humans’ system through droplets from infected pets. Roundworms are generally hollow and 35cm long.
Threadworms, also known as Pinworms, are threadlike worms that are white and tiny of length between 2mm to 13mm long. They are found in the human intestines infecting kids of preschool age commonly.
However, it can affect anyone despite their age. Threadworms are known to spread so quickly and can be spotted in kid’s faeces. It can also affect their anus because the worms usually climb out through the anus when the child is sleeping at night but they treatable as well.
Hookworms are intestinal worms that often occur as a result of poor sanitation. Hookworm infection is usually as a result of direct contact with contaminated soil, and it causes a range of unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of worms infection in babies
Children hardly exhibit worm infection symptoms. Sometimes, these symptoms can be so mild in babies that caregivers often overlook them.
However, as a parent or caregiver, you should be able to look out for the following symptoms:
- Foul-smelling faeces
- Itching around the anus
- Abdominal pain
- Significant weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Stomach upset
- Bowel issues
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Gas and bloating
A handful of severe complications can occur. These complications may be blockage of the small intestine, bile duct, pancreatic duct, and including a number of complications.
Causes of worm infections in babies
Worm infections in babies and toddler may occur when they crawl and play outside. This may be as a result of getting contaminated soil and other objects in their mouths.
The following are the common causes of worm infection in babies:
- Coming into contact with an infected surface
- Consuming infected food or water
- Poor hygiene or lack of cleanliness
- Consumption of raw or undercooked food
- Improper washing of hands
- Contact with an infected person
When symptoms of worm infection are noticed, you may have your baby clinically tested to confirm whether it is worm infection or not.
Your paediatrician may conduct the following tests:
- Stool examination: A stool sample is collected and sent to the lab for clinical testing. This test will confirm worm infection if worms or worm eggs are spotted.
- Fingernails examination: The fingernails of the baby are examined to determine the presence of worms or faeces underneath them.
- Sticky tape test: Sticky tape test is specifically designed to detect the presence of threadworms. A piece of clear tape is attached to the area around the anus of the baby then if worm eggs are collected, threadworms are the cause of the worm infection. This is because female threadworms travel up to the anus to lay eggs.
- Cotton bud swab: Cotton bud swap is used to detect worm eggs in the baby’s bottom.
- Ultrasound test: An ultrasound test is only carried out when your baby has a severe case of worm infection. In conducting this test, your paediatrician uses ultrasound to spot the precise location of the worms.
Treatment of worms in babies
Treating worm infection in babies is not difficult because your paediatrician will have anti-parasitic drugs prescribed for your child. However, this depends on how severe the infection may be.
The following are the medicines that are likely to be prescribed:
- Mebendazole: This medication is regarded as the safest treatment for a range of worm infections in infants
- Pyrantel: This drug is also regarded as a safe medication for the treatment of worm infection in children
- Albendazole Tablet/ Suspension: Children between the ages of 1-2 years can use this medicine, but never should it be used in children under 1 year.
Home remedies for a worm infection
Home remedies are like first aid intervention done at home using natural ingredients. You do not need to have symptoms of worm infection before you start taking these remedies
These home remedies serve as complementary treatments when you suspect that you have ingested any of these parasitic worms to prevent them from breeding.
You are advised to peel these natural ingredients before you consume:
- Unripe Papaya: Unripe papaya, popularly known as unripe paw-paw, has an enzyme called papain which acts as an anthelmintic and kills intestinal worms
- Garlic: Garlic are known as a natural deworming agent which are efficient in killing parasitic worms
- Carom Seeds: Carom seeds are rich in thymol, which help to stop the growth of parasites found in the intestines. You can mix them with jaggery when giving a child
- Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds have an enzyme called cucurbitacin that can paralyze intestinal worms and stop them from surviving in the body
- Bitter Gourd: Bitter gourd helps to combat intestinal worms. By just mixing it with water and honey would help in masking the bitter taste.
- Neem: Due to its anti-parasitic qualities, neem is useful in clearing various worms
Carrots: The vitamin A that Carrots possess, helps in the enhancement of children’s immunity and also helps to fight intestinal parasites. Only by consuming carrots on an empty stomach can help in destroying worms.
- Turmeric: Tumeric can serve as an internal antiseptic. It is reliable in eradicating all types of worms.
- Coconut: Coconut has strong anti-parasitic properties, and since worms are parasitic, it can be used in treating worm infection.
- Cloves: Cloves control worm infection by destroying the already existing worms including their eggs to prevent recurrence of infection.
Effects of worms on a baby’s growth
We have known that worms are parasitic and they live and feed in the intestines of their host. More than just the symptoms mentioned above, the following are the effects of worm infections in a baby’s growth, development and overall health;
- Children with untreated worm infections are likely to be anaemic later on due to the loss of iron and protein to the worms deriving them from their foods
- Roundworms can cause malabsorption of nutrients from the host’s diet
- Worms can result in lack of appetite, reduction in nutritional absorption and weakness.
- Babies and toddlers may suffer diarrhea and dysentery, and this can result in dehydration if care is not taken
- The physical and mental development of the child is impaired, causing the child to be underweight or too stunted for his age
The effects of worm infections also include childhood malnutrition which maybe as a result of the worms’ activities in the body.
These activities include decreasing nutrient-absorption in the intestines, feed off from the nutrients of the host’s diet and other ways.
Infants are most susceptible to infections such as worm infections, especially in toddlers. It is your responsibility to keep your babies safe.
The cause of the worm infections is as a result of hygiene. By taking specific hygienic measures, you are sure to prevent occurrence and re-occurrence of worm infections.
These measures may include the following:
- Regularly check your baby’s napkins or diapers and have them changed if needed. Wash your hands each time you change the diaper
- Always keep your house and surroundings clean
- Always make sure that your toddler wears closed shoes while playing and washes his hands and feet after returning home
- Stop letting your child play near water-logged areas
- Always have your baby’s fingernails cut short and kept clean
- Give your child only safe water to drink (properly filtered or boiled water)
- Baby food should be adequately cooked well for the heat to kill intestinal worms if present
- Wash fruits and vegetables very well with safe water before consuming
- Worms can be found in clothes and bed linen. Thus, you should wash them with soap and hot water
- Always keep the potty seat of your baby clean
Maintaining hygiene is an excellent way of preventing worm ingestion and infections. However, some paediatricians recommend de-worming process every six months. To de-worm means to administer de-worming medicine to prevent worm infections.